Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Where did my mojo go?

I just don't know. But I just feel very boring lately.

The internship is fine, and I'm pleased to say I'm enjoying it more than I thought I would. We're headed out for a historic walking tour of Coney Island tomorrow, which I'm really looking forward to. We even get a ticket for the WonderWheel. When we're not on field trips or at lunch lectures, we do our actual work, which in my case is lots of research and writing. For reasons I won't go into here (not because they're sensitive information or anything, but just because they're not all that compelling), I've been translating a German book on the history of carved coconut cups. Because of course the only book anyone's ever bothered to write on the subject is in a language I can barely read. I'm through the section on the coconut's discovery by and exportation to the West. Did you know that people used to think that coconuts grew at the bottom of the sea and then floated up? Neither did I. Also, they're named after their resemblance to monkeys, which were called "cocos" in some Pacific languages. It's also very good practice for the German reading exam I have to take in August. The translating I mean, not the part about floating coconuts and monkeys. (The German for coconut is kokosnuss, by the way, except instead of two esses, there should be one of those things that looks like a B.) (I also now know the German word for unicorn, cabinet of curiosities, and mermaid!) (I sure hope those show up on the test). :)

When I'm not at work, I'm at home, trying to stay cool and trying to make myself go to bed early enough to not be so cranky in the mornings. So far the early to bed part has been a failure. I don't usually get home until after 6, and then I relax for a while, and then I try to think of something to eat for dinner, and then I surf the net and watch movies, and then I realize I should have gone to bed an hour ago.

I did do some knitting. My scarf is finished! I just need to weave in the ends and do a little blocking. I started a sock for the Summer of Socks on Sunday and ended up ripping it out after I had about 3 inches in because it was wayyy too big. It's Wendyknits' exclusive pattern for the knitalong, and she wasn't kidding when she said it was very stretchy. I ended up going down two sizes from my usual sock size to get one that wasn't huge.

It just really doesn't feel like there's much interesting stuff going on in my life these days. It's just get up, go to work, go home, kill a few hours, go to bed, and repeat. I am looking forward to this weekend, mainly because I'll get to sleep in, but also because I'll be kitty-sitting for a friend who just rescued a pregnant cat and now has a non-pregnant cat and seven kittens. I can't wait to see them!

Also, I think I might go see a movie. And go to the library. And maybe hit the farmer's market down in Union Square. Boy, it's just a thrill a minute around here, isn't it? I guess not every day (or even every week) can be exciting or interesting. I'll try and get some knitting photos up as soon as I get the scarf totally finished. At least you'll have something fun to look at then. And who knows, maybe something interesting will happen at Coney Island tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Thanks for all the nice comments on my last post everybody. I'm glad the post was meaningful to you all, too. It's a constant battle, learning to live with the hand you've been dealt, and I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

I started my internship on Monday, and while I won't say too much about the particulars, I will say that (1) everyone was very nice, (2) the work I've been assigned is both interesting and well-matched to my skill set, and (3) the place is so well air-conditioned that I need a sweater. If I have to go to work, at least it will be cooler than staying at home. It's been a little difficult to get used to a regular 9 to 5 schedule again, but I'm managing. I'm also taking advantage of a full lunch hour. The past few days I've gone outside to Central Park (it's practically across the street) to eat my sandwich and knit.

Since I've sworn off socks until the Summer of Socks starts on Saturday, I have been working on my Storm Water scarf and on my much delayed Icarus shawl. I took them both with me to a girl's night out party/sleepover this past weekend. It was hosted by a classmate who is an extremely talented seamstress and needleworker. Watching her effortlessly draft and cut out pattern pieces for a blouse, it occurred to me that really knowing how to sew would be an incredibly useful skill to know. I can sew very simple patterns -- I've made pajama pants, for example, but haven't tried anything that requires curves, gathering, and other complicated (to me at least) techniques. But if I could sew well enough to make clothes that I'd be willing to be seen in public with.....

One of the problems with having a non-standard body type (I was going to say with being larger, but it's not a problem solely for plus-sizes) is that you have a fairly limited selection of retail options. Mostly I shop at Lane Bryant, because it's a brick and mortar store where I can try things on (I love the plus size options available online in theory, but I hate to deal with returns if things don't fit the way I need them to), they're relatively affordable, and they're sort of trendy. But I've been let down by them before. Like the time when I really wanted a dress but they weren't making any dresses that season. Or the time that all the business-type pants were only available in capri length. Really, a suit with capri pants? For when you want to look simultaneously businesslike and casual. LB designers, were you high that day?

Anyway, my point was that with limited options to begin with, retail shopping can be even more frustrating than it is normally. If I could sew though, I could have whatever I wanted. It's a really tempting thought, isn't it? That perfect dress I've been imagining could be mine. Of course, there are two enormous downsides to this plan. First, it hinges on me being able to sew well enough to create a garment that I could and would wear. Second, I would have to actually sew it. Being the champion procrastinator that I am, I'm not sure I'd ever get anything done.

Have any of you turned to sewing to create those elusive clothes that only seem to exist in your imagination? Or do you find the costs of skills, materials, and time to be not worth the effort? I'd be interested to know.

And speaking of procrastination, I've got to go work through a chapter of my German comprehension book. Those sentences aren't going to translate themselves.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Putting the Therapy in Wardrobe Therapy

So the post that I had intended for this weekend ends up on Thursday. Sorry about that. First I was melting into the very fabric of my armchair thanks to a heatwave. Then I was enjoying not melting once the wave broke. It did so with one of the most spectacular thunderstorms I have ever seen. There is a lot of litter in my neighborhood, but it usually stays in the corners and the gutters. Tuesday night it went flying through the air, making little tornadoes of cups and chip wrappers. I'm on the second floor, and things were flying up higher than my window. An awning from the beauty parlor down the street broke free of its moorings and went crashing down the street, smacking into several cars on its way. Made me glad I'm not a car owner anymore, as with my luck it would have been my vehicle in the path of destruction. Lightning lit the sky with that eerie blue green glow. It was, as they say, really something.

Now I'm relaxing from the work day, which was spent in the cool air conditioned buildings at school. In this heat, it's nice to have a reason to go into work. :) I've done a deep clean of the bathroom, fighting a losing battle against cat gravel. The bathroom's the only place in the apartment for the box, but the floor is made up of those tiny 1-inch square tiles, and Minnie's a kicker, so there's gravel all over the place. I sweep and vacuum as much as I can, but there's only so much one can do. Now I'm cooling off with some cherry seltzer and biding my time until I'm refreshed enough for a 15 minute sweep through the kitchen, where, like Tuesday's storm, I will gather up all the detritus littering the table and counters. Unlike the storm, however, I'll put it all away or in the trash.

Which brings me to now, which seemed like as good a time as any to bare my chest (metaphorically speaking) and confess why I fizzled out on Wardrobe Therapy, and why I'm really not that upset about it. It wasn't the chaos of finals, although that didn't help. It was a very upsetting revelation: when it came to my wardrobe and grooming, I had largely given up. Oh, I still made sure that things were clean and covered and decent, and I didn't neglect basic issues of hygiene, and I was ever on the lookout for cute shoes and other goodies, but I really wasn't TRYING. I was SETTLING.

I'm not sure if I've ever written about this on my blog before (I took a brief look through the archives and didn't see anything obvious), but almost four years ago this month (June 26, 2004, to be exact) I caught/developed/came down with (I don't even know what verb to use) Bell's Palsy. I've never had the most loving relationship with my body and appearance, but I mostly managed. Once half my face was paralyzed, however, things took a definite turn for the worse. Depending on which websites you look at, between 80-95% of Bell's Palsy sufferers regain their lost nerve sensation. I was one of the unlucky 20-5%. While the droopiness has, thank heavens, gone away, half my face is fine, and the other half is set in a sort of neutral expression.

In the first weeks and months after I got sick, I gave myself permission to take it easy. I was sick, in part from the steroids that were treatment for the palsy, and making extra effort with my appearance was just too difficult. It was hard enough to get out of bed and go to work. As time passed, and my hopes of getting all the movement back faded, I got depressed, and that became my reason for not doing all the little things I used to do for myself. Why bother with makeup when half my face was a mask? Why try to look nice when I felt so terrible? In time the depression passed, more or less, but by then the neglect became a habit.

Going through Wardrobe Therapy, when I saw the dresses and skirts that I didn't really wear much because I had stopped shaving my legs regularly except for special occasions, or the jewelry I didn't take time to put on, or the nail polish congealing in its bottles (I used to have a nice pedicure all the time, now I could go months between applications, letting the polish wear away into nothing), or the makeup I didn't wear and the hair products I didn't use -- I realized how much I had been neglecting myself. Oh I was still interested in beauty and fashion, but there was this little voice in my head, telling me it was fine in theory, and for other people, but not for me, because why bother? I mean, it's not like I was a fashion plate before, but this is one case where the before was definitely better than the after.

So what changed? Well, I became interested in Wardrobe Therapy after following one of Dr. Wende's posts on Apartment Therapy. I started following in the middle of the last round, and decided to participate when she ran it again for the spring. Though I have yet to follow through on an entire Apartment Therapy cure, I was impressed by the structure of the program and liked the way Wende had translated it to clothing. I also got interested in Fat Acceptance / Heath at Every Size through reading the very excellent Kate Harding's blog. Sorting through my clothes was easy, but as I (slowly) worked my way through the WT program and read more and more about the way that society conditions us to undervalue ourselves, I started to realize how messed up my attitudes towards my appearance were. The Bell's Palsy sucks. It really does (though I realize there are far, FAR worse things that could have happened to me). But like my size, it does not define me. It does not make me a good person or a bad person, and it should not stop me from doing the things I enjoy doing or treating myself with love and respect.

I don't want to give up on myself. I've had some pretty emotional moments these past few weeks as I started to put the pieces back together. I've made some strides. My toenails are painted a bright purple. I'm making an effort to put on makeup and do something more with my hair than just brush it before I head out the door. I'm going through my (newly organized) jewelry box instead of just grabbing for my old standby jewelry. And I'm doing these things not so that they'll "distract" from the fat or the palsy. I know they won't. I'm doing them because I like doing these things and because I like how I feel and how I look when I do them.

I haven't been the most dutiful participant, blog-wise, during this round of WT. I regret this a little, especially since the other participants are so interesting and inspiring (and they post so much more often than I!). But I do feel as though I've gotten so much out of the program. Yes, my wardrobe isn't quite so bulging as it was before, and I've bought (or have planned to buy) things that I love and that flatter me, and I finally got rid of all that "make do" clothing. But what's more important for me is that it's helped push me back to being myself again. And that's more important than a clean closet any day.

If you're still with me, I apologize for the novel-length post. I just needed to get this off my chest. I'm actually a little embarrassed now that I've written this, but I'm going to post it anyway. Now I'm off to tidy up the kitchen. Then I think it's time for knitting and a podcast or two before bed. Thanks for reading. I promise it will be shorter next time.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


There are monsters on my socks!

I finished these on Saturday and am pretty happy with them. It's too hot to wear them now, but fall will come back eventually. I'm off socks for a few weeks now until the Summer of Socks starts. The Storm Water scarf is making good progress (it looks like it's going to be pretty long), and is serving as my mindless knitting project of the moment. The scarf has also gotten me excited about lace knitting again, and I've even put in several rows on my Icarus shawl, which I hope to finish this summer. (We'll see).

In WT news, I went through my jewelry, which is the only big group of accessories I have at the moment (there are scarves and winter accessories, but I'll leave them for another season). In the interest of not having to link all the photos, I've created a set in my flickr photostream, with my comments. You can see it here. Since I tend to wear the same few pieces every day, I've been making a conscious effort to wear different pieces this week. It's a little difficult right now, since my summer job is very casual and much of my jewelry is kind of dressy. When my internship starts in about a week I'll be wearing my office clothes again, and I'm hoping I'll be able to work more pieces in.

I am also reminded that I like silver jewelry better than gold, but that I own much more gold-toned stuff than silver. This is in part because much of my jewelry has been "borrowed" from my mother or has been handed down from my grandma, and they both prefer/preferred gold. My mom has tons of jewelry, mostly of the costume variety, but also the "good stuff." Since she doesn't wear lots of her older pieces anymore, but since I like the vintage look, I've ended up with lots of her things. I like to refer to it as "stolen" since it usually ended up in my jewelry box permanently after I had asked my mom if I could wear a piece "just this one time." She doesn't really mind, though, since as I said they're mostly things she doesn't wear anymore. Looking at lots of the things that were hers, I realize that my mom was pretty stylish back in the day. She got married at 35, which was much later than most of her relatives and friends, and so, as she puts it, she had longer to spend her money on shoes and clothes. I love to look at pictures of her from the 60s and early 70s -- I'm still waiting for pictures of her in her wig collection to surface. :)

The jewelry that I've gotten from my grandma is kind of a roundabout story. My maternal grandmother loved costume jewelry and had a ton of it. For reasons that I won't get into here, she stopped wearing a bunch of it and it was just sitting in her apartment. Her move into an assisted living facility (a few years before she passed away) coincided with my own big move to the East Coast for grad school. Since she needed to pare down her belongings and I needed household goods, I was gifted with all sorts of things, from her rocking chair to her dishes to cookbooks, to some of the jewelry she didn't have a use for. I got a few more pieces after her death. My mom and grandma's jewelry isn't just pretty, and I don't just like it because of my own scholarly interest in jewelry -- it's a reminder of who they are (or were) and who they used to be. There are parts of their lives in those pins and necklaces, and owning them is, for me, a way of keeping all that close to me. And it doesn't hurt that much of it is pretty darn gorgeous!

All the jewelry is currently stored in a series of jewelry boxes, new and vintage. I need to come up with something better, though, since it's getting a little crowded in there. I should whip up some little bags for things the next time I get out the sewing machine, since enamelled and rhinestone jewelry is very vulnerable to scratches and losing stones if it gets all jumbled together. There's one more thing for the summer project list....

Going through my clothes, jewelry, and makeup, I've noticed that there are lots of things I used to do or wear that I don't really take the time for any longer. I've got some thoughts about why this is, and also about why Wardrobe Therapy has been far more difficult for me than I anticipated, but that has to wait for the weekend. It's been a long day and I'm looking forward to some knitting and relaxing before bed.