Archive for January, 2019

Hobbies and Obsessions

January 15, 2019

It’s cold, cold, cold here, and my Christmas tree is still up.

I’m looking for a new hobby/obsession. For years I was super into knitting, and got really good at it. Looking back I can remember clearly the series of misshapen hats and sweaters that slowly evolved into areas of specific expertise – baby hats and sweaters, socks.

Before the knitting era, I did all kinds of handwork – I crocheted (at least 4 bedspreads among other random things), did counted cross-stitch, learned a technique to paint on cloth (a set of sheets with a pillowcase, several T-shirts). I thought about learning beading, bought a set of tools to make jewellery and taught myself how to make up-cycled earrings from broken-up thrift store pieces.

Then one day I read an article in a knitting magazine about knitting obsession and it was like the *permission* I needed to truly become obsessed myself. I gathered an extensive collection of needles and other paraphernalia, built up a good-sized yarn stash, read knitting blogs, experimented. I taught a small group of friends how to knit.

Eventually, through infertility and then babies and then two international moves my knitting dropped off to nearly zero. When I reclaimed it, all I made was socks. I love making socks. Using four or five needles at once automatically impresses people, and the small size is much more portable than a blanket or even a sweater. Sock knitting has gotten me through innumerable boring meetings. I love the self-striping yarns you can get, and I love playing with color and pattern and texture within the confines of the given shape. I know the structure of a sock so well now that I can cast on and then go without thinking or planning a lot. Plus, for an international move, a bag of sock yarn and one set of double-pointed needles is all you need to hours of therapy in the future.

I do find it therapeutic. But somehow I’ve burned out on knitting, finally. There are things I’d like to make, but I don’t have the same range of needles and yarns available to me here (although I still have all my tools and fiber in storage in the US). In Colombia I did find a couple nice yarn shops, but they didn’t carry the range of natural fibers you can get in North America. Even less so here where it’s either very rough but all natural sheep’s wool yarns that older women use to make bed socks, or imported acrylic yarns from Turkey. I brought sock yarn with me and needles but I feel entirely uninspired. It took me a year to make a pair of ankle socks for a friend with very small feet.

So, I’ve been coloring. I have the Bloggess’s amazing book, and another one my sister gave me of artwork based on tropical nature. But it’s not something I can obsess about. And I feel like I need a new obsession.

I’ve been toying with a few ideas – I love miniatures, and I realized that half the appeal of Legos for me is the building of a miniature world. I thought about learning how to make miniature books. Now I’m thinking about miniature knitting. I feel inspired by the tiny knitted and crocheted animals I’ve seen on Instagram and that’s where I think I might be headed.

Any delay, though, is due to the time it takes to figure things out. With socks, I could just grab some yarn, needles, decide who to make the sock for (–> number of stitches to cast on) and go. With a new thing it’s going to take time to figure out. Setting aside that time intentionally needs a little bit of a push and I’m generally more likely to tell myself “I’ll only surf Twitter for 5 minutes,” until 45 minutes later and it’s time to go get the kids. But I have a perpetual need to play with color, pattern, shape, texture, and design and if I don’t find another outlet for it then I will continue to get sucked into building worlds on my kids’ Minecraft accounts when I could be doing something more real, more productive.

Here we are

January 11, 2019

The obligatory New Year’s post… I guess I didn’t do one last year; my blogging was in a dormant phase at that time and my in-laws were here. I did set an intention though, tucked into a plastic tree ornament and re-opened on Dec 31, to find a sense of purpose and direction. And I think I did that, over the course of the year.

I feel like now I’m refining my goals, making them more realistic. When I turned 45, anticipating a mid-life crisis of some sort, I started working on a memoir as well as some fiction writing, giving myself freedom and permission to explore writing as a craft. I asked myself what is it I want so much I can taste it? I want to see my name in print. The exact parameters around that are vague to me, but I want to produce something really, really good.

What I’ve realized since I set that goal is that it will probably take longer than the few months I’d allotted to it, longer even than a year. It will take a long time.

I’ve also realized that I don’t want to own my own consulting business. Over the past couple of months I’ve been doing a LOT of work for my husband. He took on way too many projects this fall, and ended up under a series of simultaneous deadlines, conflicting travel demands, etc. So I ended up ghost-writing one of his reports (just 20 pages), translating into Spanish and then heavily editing another 200-page report (I started having dissertation flash-backs), substitute teaching his online class for a month, and continuing to manage most of the household business – although to his credit he did pick up a lot of that in December after getting back from his last trip. On the one hand, my feminism is outraged (“Anonymous was a woman!”) but on the other hand I’ve enjoyed it. I enjoy NOT being the one in charge. I found the work mostly stimulating and interesting enough in its own right (mostly – a good part of it was also excruciatingly tedious). I do enjoy working with him, mostly – I originally fell in love with him during long conversations about international development theory – I love his mind and how he makes me think about things I’ve never thought of before. And vice versa. So now I’m thinking maybe we should co-own the consulting business. If his current employment starts to look shaky, we’re thinking about doing that instead.

We’re thinking about extending our stay in Albania for one more year. Because of course we are. Because we changed schools for the kids this year and it would be nice if they could be at the same school for 2 years in a row, for once. (It has been, on balance, a good change. Illyria has a friend who is a girl her age for pretty much the first time in her life.) Because the cost of living is so much less here. Because we’re used to being expats. Because… sometimes I run out of energy to keep dissecting the whys and wherefores. So maybe it’s also because of inertia. And here we are.