Archive for the ‘the future and you’ Category

A few months ago, right before my Chinese class started and I discovered how out of practice I was at managing my time, I bought a stack of used knitting books and kits on Amazon and borrowed a couple of books from my MIL.  I dutifully tried to figure out how to cast on for a couple of days, decided I had it down, and then carefully stacked everything next to our Tower O’ Craft Crap.  And it sat.  And sat.

Until yesterday.  WIth Chinese out of the way, classes for next semester chosen and enrolled for, I decided I was ready to knit already.  Out came the needles, the yarn, and the book I had the most success with before.  I gave it my all, grunting and squinting and trying to flip the page while holding the yarn and needle.  And it was sucking.

Thursdays are the day that my house is cleaned.  The woman who comes in is the loveliest person you’d ever want to meet and she’s an absolute whiz with, well, everything crafty.  She sews, knits, crochets, beads and cooks in a restaurant once a week.  And she took one look at what I was doing, showed me a far easier way to cast on, and now?  I have about two inches of knitting.  It’s going to be a red rectangle when I’m all done.  Maybe a scarf, although I’m a little leery of committing to any one design just yet 😛

And even better, I have a knitting teacher now.  She’s going to teach me to crochet as well.  And I, my friends, am thrilled.

But even more than the knitting, which I love like only an obsessive-tendencied person who finds repetitive motion meditative and who thrives in situations where there is a clear, observable result can, I am happy to have someone to pass this skill along to me.  It’s wonderful to have the books, and I will certainly use them as I get better and need patterns or tips or whatnot, but it is even more wonderful to have a real, live person to guide me.  It makes me feel like I am part of something bigger, and this has been a sort of mantra for me over the past few months.  Part of something bigger than myself, than my house, than my experiences.  People can change the world by being part of something bigger.

Sharon at Causabon’s Book wrote last week about The Competence Project.  She gives a list of skills that every person should have and I’ve been thinking about these, and the skills I would really like to have as I go forward.  Her list is pretty straight forward, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many skills on it I actually have:

  • cook a decent meal–simple meals, yes.  Healthy even.
  • handle an injury or illness crisis–not so much. I really need to take a first aid class.
  • tend a sick kid–yup, I can do this
  • fix a broken step–nope
  • darn a sock–absolutely
  • dehydrate a tomato–nope
  • tell a storyyep
  • grow a potato–I’m giving it a go but cannot claim knowledge yet 😉
  • build a sun oven–nope
  • bake a loaf of bread–again, giving it a go 🙂
  • put up a fence–I have helped with fence erection but would likely be screwed if I had to do it myself.
  • season cast iron–sho’nuff can
  • mend a rip–yup
  • care for a dying person–no
  • sing a baby to sleep–in *my* sleep
  • clean a toilet–again, in my sleep
  • knit or crochet a sock–soon.  soon.
  • fix a roof–nope
  • use a weapon–nope
  • plant a tree–nope
  • immobilize a limb–I could probably figure this out pretty easily.
  • make someone understand a counter-intuitive idea–yeah, I can do this if I try
  • save seed–not yet
  • sharpen a knife–yes ma’am.
  • chop garlic–absolutely
  • make beer–does ginger beer count?
  • have courage–surprisingly, yes if I remember to breathe
  • fix a bicycle tire–I can’t even ride a bicycle.
  • make soup–and good soup at that
  • give a pep talk–I am beyond lousy at pep talks.

The long and short of it is that I am lacking in a couple of big areas.  The big one is anything related to emergency care/medical stuff.  And having two small kids in the house, this is the big focus here.  I’m signed up for a CPR/AED class later this month, which will cover cardiac arrest and choking.  The other is the building of stuff.  I’m not entirely unhandy–I can put up drywall in a pinch although I’m better at the plastering and sanding.  But for the most part, I have no access to roofs or steps to learn to repair them.  That one will have to be put on hold.  The last is the seed saving, tree planting stuff, which I’m going to broaden into Learning about Plants and How They Do What They Do.  This one will hopefully be covered next semester in my science class which is about plants and how we use them, including medicinal uses.

The thing about self-sufficiency is that it forces me to admit that someday I may have to act alone.  Preparation takes some of the fear out of it.  And the more confident I have gotten in my ability to learn new skills and take charge of situations, the easier it has gotten for me to make decisions and act on them.  Maybe there will never be a time when I have to live off of my food stores but it’s sure nice to have them.  Maybe I’ll never need to perform CPR,  but it certainly will make me feel better to know how.  The more skills we have and share, the stronger we get.  And while I certainly can’t prepare for everything, building confidence where I can is one of the most important preparations I can make.  And that is one of the cheesiest sentences I’ve ever written.  Sheesh.

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After running around Thursday and Friday, I decided to take it easy yesterday.  I napped with and without the baby (stocking up sleep before the election shift from hell on Tuesday.  I played Carcassonne with C and Lucy.  I took the kids to Staples to get crayons for Chico’s First Drawing (he only tried to eat the purple one and we have a drawing to show for our efforts, plus a bunch of crayon tips littering the dining room floor.)  I watched Cinema Paradiso until after eleven, and that’s about it.  And it.was.really.nice.  Sleeping, man.  It totally rocks.

This morning I broke out the stovetop espresso pot since we’re drinking so much less coffee ’round these parts.  It really does taste a hell of a lot better, and I got our last bag of coffee ground for stovetop espresso so there you have it.  I’m hoping this will also positively impact our electric usage.  And give me some faux-Italian cred because I do love to pretend to be Euro-trash 😉

This is all in preparation for a day of productiveness.  We need to take the kids to the Hall of Science to return library stuff.  C has to do work for class and I have to, let’s see.  Wash diapers, put away laundry from Thursday, put away all of the crap we got out yesterday, wash the children, make and freeze applesauce and squash, get food for Lucy’s lunches for the week and take a shower.  I also bought a nicho to fill that I’d really like to throw some time into but I doubt that will happen for a while.    It’s just as well since I’ve not quite decided what I want to do inside it, but I’d really like to give it a go before too long.

And then Tuesday…well, it’ll be long but it’s only once a year, right?  And I’ll totally have bragging rights for months 😛

Right so.  I’m off to run around in circles here, and then outside in my coat which looks like the Obama campaign threw up on it.  We’ve gotten so fangirl here that even Lucy has a Women for Obama button and sign in her window.  If I’m not around before then, don’t forget to vote on Tuesday (like you would) and remember:

1.  If you forget to keave your buttons/campaign gear at home, do not let them send you home.  Take off buttons/stickers, turn shirts inside out, whatever you have to do but DO NOT LEAVE WITHOUT VOTING.

2.  Look up the voting procedures for your particular area.

3.  Don’t forget to look up sample ballots for your particular area and know who you are voting for before you get in the booth.  In New York City, you have 3 minutes to vote.  Don’t get rushed because you aren’t prepared.  Also, make sure your vote shows up as you have cast it.

4.  Don’t stay home.  Pleasepleaseplease, even if you are convinced your vote won’t make a difference, get out there anyway.  If I can work a 16 hour shift at the polls, you can go vote.

5.  Remind everyone you  know that Tuesday is election day.  Ask people if they have voted yet.  Pass on the links to find rules, ballots, etc. for their locales.  I want to wake up on Wednesday morning and hear that this election had the most voters ever.  It’s the only way to hold our officials accountable for the decisions they make.

6.  While you are at the polls, keep an eye out for anything that looks suspicious.  If you see people leaving without voting or being given a hard time, speak up.  Find a poll worker or police officer or independent watcher if that is what is needed.

Alright y’all.  That’s the last of my nagging.  Vote early, vote Obama.

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So somehow the 2 hours I spent outside last night have gone straight to my head.  Sinuses to be specific.  I have a general sort of fog, as well as a bit of a scratchy voice from yelling ‘Register to Vote’ when my much more effective partner/mentor was engaged with a registerer.

By the time I needed to leave the house, I was positively dreading taking part in the registration drive.  I was already feeling a bit less-than-hale after napping with the bub before Lucy got home from school, plus it was on the chilly side and I don’t yet have a jacket for Chico or anything large enough to zip him around me in the ‘hawk.  We took the long way to the meet-up point, and I tried to convince myself it would be ok to bail, that there would be plenty of people there, that I had every excuse to go back home.

But when I got to the corner, there was the organizer and one couple in their sixties or seventies.  And I said to myself, ‘Well hell, if they can stand out here, so can I.’  I introduced myself, and before too long we got started.  It was disorganized at first in that way that these grassroots Democratic political events always seem to be (what’s up with that?) but before too long, we had powered through all of the registration forms the organizer brought.  We broke up into de facto duos, with the head of our local For Obama group coming up to my corner holler while I held the clipboard and pen.  The bub nursed down for his mid-evening nap so I had full attention to pay to the most effective way to get people registered, and I will definitely do this again in years to come.

Of the highlights, the biggest was probably when the woman from the older couple leaned over to me and told me how she used to take her daughter on strikes to picket, and later offered to block me while I nursed Chico in his carrier.  Many people wanted to stop and tell their stories about why they are voting for Obama, and the woman I was with registered a 56 year old who had never voted before.  Regardless of your particular proclivities, it is certainly an important sign that voter registration numbers are so high and this will hopefully translate into voter turnout.

Even though I’m feeling pretty snuffly this morning, it was definitely worth it.  Getting out there so beats sitting around complaining, and democracy is so much more than just voting.


This is Day 5 of the 29 Day Giving Challenge and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how good giving feels, especially giving for the sake of giving instead of out of obligation, whether it’s time or money or a meal or whatever.  I think the thing I’ve appreciated most is sitting down at the end of the day and really thought about what I’ve done for the people I love and the things I believe in and actually felt a sense of accomplishment, as though I am actually being true to who I want to be.

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I feel good.  And not that super-excited, sure-to-fall-to-pieces good I usually get.  It’s a steady sort of good that feels like it can be maintained.  This, my friends, is awesome.

One of the concepts I am thinking about is ambition.  In describing things I dislike about myself, competitiveness always comes up.  The positive side of competitiveness being ambition, it makes complete sense for me to focus on my ambitions.  Of which I have exactly none that do not change on a quasi-regular basis.  I mean, I aspire to be a good parent and wife, a compassionate and reasoned citizen, a supportive friend.  But ambition…I don’t know that I have really had an ambition to do anything in particular save for taking part in the Riot/reducing our carbon emissions and unmedicated childbirth/breastfeeding.

One of the things I have been feeling is an absence of ambition.  I want to succeed at something, desperately at times, but I don’t know what that thing is.  Sometimes I feel it is writing, other times lactation consultation, with dashes of law, research, policy work, copy-editing, and assorted other ideas that have flitted around in my head before being wiped out either by self-doubt or loss of that all-too-fickle ‘gut feeling’ I get immediately before I make a decision.

zIt’s a little startling, as someone who always considered myself to be ambitious, to find that I’m walking around without any sort of goals past making a couple of catnip toys for Pickle and Bean and cooking up some yams for the baby.  And it strikes me that a portion of my happiness, the portion which comes from things other than my family, has been missing whenever I’m not focused on things to do for me (my drawing, the Riot, writing.)

So it comes down to this.  I need to keep up these little projects because I do have a sense of pride everytime I try a new craft and succeed.  But I also need to allow myself to explore larger goals for my own fulfillment.  I need to find my ambition again and lose this idea that I have to be better than anyone else in order to be good.  In my better days I don’t need that yardstick, and I want to have more of those sort of days.

Like today.

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