Tag Archives: me

Women’s Work

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I have to quickly bring in the laundry before it blows away.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But my children need me to help them read difficult words.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I also need to eat breakfast.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I’m remembering that I need to get to the mending.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But my child is making frustrated noises waiting for my attention.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But a chicken has ducked under the fence.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I’m the only one who knows where the candy thermometer is supposed to go.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I can see a pile of clutter waiting for my attention.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But someone has left the back door open again.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But it’s snack time.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But every time I’m interrupted my thoughts scatter like dry leaves on the wind.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I have to spend precious seconds gathering my errant thoughts up again.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I’m remembering Sylvia Plath dying of quiet desperation.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I’m thinking about yellow wallpaper.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But I can’t get the image of Marie Curie working the second shift out of my head.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But it’s taken me most of an hour to get through this paragraph.

I’m only writing an e-mail to a friend.

But it’s so much work.

Dear Pinterest

Dear Pinterest,

I know this is a weird way to start a letter, but I’m not a first-time mom.  And I’m not a new mom, either.  And regardless of my reproductive status, please try to understand that I have absolutely ZERO interest in gender reveal party ideas.

I don’t want to read reddit screencaps promoting misogyny, even if it’s camouflaged as “men’s rights”.

I’m not Mormon.  I’m not Christian.  My dudes, I am not even into religion at all.

I don’t want to learn about celebrity haircuts that could make me look younger.  I cherish the time I have lived, and I’m not a follower.

I am not an older woman, and even if I were, I wouldn’t care about anti-aging cream or makeup tips for hiding wrinkles and age spots.

I have a very solid understanding of what people ate in the 1800s.  And, while we’re on the subject of my ancestry, I don’t have a German name, or a French name, or an Italian name.  In fact, I know exactly what my family name means, whereas you cannot possibly guess.

I have no interest in buying false eyelashes, magnetic or otherwise.  If I wanted to wear falsies, I have three entire yards of black silk organza to work with, so I still wouldn’t need your help.

I’m not a prepper, and I don’t own a gun.  I would NEVER own a gun, even if, in the parlance of the times, SHTF.

I am not homeschooling my kids for religious reasons.  I don’t want to know how to teach them the Bible, why I should have them memorize the Bible, or how to teach them “Why God wants them to stay pure!”

I could never name all 50 state capitals, not even when I was a kid.

I don’t need the top 12 meditations for Christian mothers.  I am not a Christian, Pinterest.  I can’t believe you still don’t understand this.

I’m not in high school or college.  I see why this one confused you– I remember those days and am happy to chuckle along to memes about those experiences, but for real, stop pretending you don’t know how old I am.  We both know you know.

I will totally believe what Marsha from the Brady Bunch looks like now.  I am, in fact, familiar with the concept of women aging.

My kids are not stressed-out middle schoolers, and they don’t need easy science fair ideas.  If they did, I wouldn’t come to you for it, because I want to raise children who understand what science really is.

I don’t think having kids earn allowance or privileges in a strict quid pro quo system is good for their development; I definitely don’t think it’s “genius.”

I don’t care that some people took the same family portrait pose for however many years, and I don’t like being told not to cry.  I’ll cry if I damn well need to, and frankly, the only family portraits I want to see have people I know in them.

I’m not vegan, Paleo, keto, gluten-free, low-carb, or no-sugar.  I do like to shape what my family eats by specific guidelines, but you wouldn’t understand my system because it doesn’t have a hashtag.

I hate Marvel movies.  Really, I do.  And I’m not a fan of Disney.

I’m not a dog person, and if I were, I wouldn’t choose a dog to join my family based on the projected popularity of dog breeds in 2018.  A dog is not a paint color.

Speaking of paint colors, I do not care if houses with blue bathrooms sold faster and for more money in 2017, because a) I don’t have a house to paint, b) if I did, the popularity of certain features wouldn’t matter to me, and c) I don’t think of a house as a way to store money.

I know exactly which Kardashian sister I am (none of them), so I don’t need your personality test.  I also already know which Ministry of Magic job I’d have (Minister for Magic), and which character on “Little House on the Praire” I am most like (Brave #1).  Fuck off with this shit, it’s weird.

I am not a Jehovah’s Witness.  Again, I am not even a Christian.

I don’t shop at IKEA, I don’t understand why I would want “better-for-you gnocchi” to even be a thing, and I think if you need a personality quiz to tell you what kind of blog to start, you probably shouldn’t bother.

Finally, I don’t know quite how to put this, but I have actually negative interest in exploring essential oil regimens to promote weight loss, and the pinned image you are using to bring my attention to this particular bit of content is despicable.  You should be ashamed.

Sincerely, but in no way yours,

Elizabeth Surton

Mirror

I see my grandmother’s soft belly, warm and comfortable like a living pillow.  I see her thick, strong legs, hardened to oaken knots by a dozen miles walked each day between the clothesline, the kitchen, the pantry, the garden, the sewing machine.

I see my mother’s supple arms, smelling like home and squeezing tight to show love.  I see her feet, sure and straight.

I see my father’s hair, so dark it’s nearly black.

I see my grandmother’s lips, berry-pink, with a twist that seems halfway between haughty scorn and delighted laughter.

I see my grandfather’s nose, round and straight and tanned from the summer sun.

I see my children’s skin, sprinkled with little brown freckles like the punctuation marks of a poet.

I see my brother’s chin, scarred and healed, healed and scarred again, full of hurt and balm and lessons learned many times but still forgotten.

I see my great-grandmothers’ hands, nimble and dexterous in their work, stiff and sore after too much of it.

I see my great-grandfather’s ears, delicate, perfect, a little too fussy for the rest of the face.

I see my ancestors’ blood, carried laboriously over seas and through mountain passes to nourish the tiny ball of nothing that would become me.

 

When I look in the mirror, I can’t see myself.

It’s like locking eyes with a stranger, at once too intimate and thrillingly alien.

If a stranger could be the sum of my heritage multiplied by my experiences and divided by my physiology.

If a stranger could have the breasts that nourish my babies, and the eyes I remember from my childhood, and the posture of my sassy teenage years, and the nascent tracery of my age.

Fuck.

Reflections are crowded.

WIP Wednesday

I don’t know what it is about the last month or so, but I am stuck.  I currently have nine WIPs going– everything from fabric I just finished dyeing and haven’t cut yet to a nearly-finished soft toy– and none of them is speaking to me.  To make matters worse, when I push forward and try to work on something anyway, I inevitably screw it up.

Case in point: this shirt yoke.  I decided that, out of the THREE projects in my current workbag, it was the one that would be easiest to force my way through so I could build momentum for the rest of my life.  I nearly finished it this afternoon, sitting on the deck in the sunlight, and when I tried it on Ithilien, I discovered it was too big and the whole thing would have be made over, from the cast-on, so that it could be SIX stitches smaller.  Six.  Which is actually for the best because the lace I was trying to add to the bodice was a total wreck, because I hadn’t taken the time to chart the line-by-line instructions before I started so that I would have any hope of working it on an increasing piece.

How do I feel about that?  Well…

So, I’m giving up.  This day can suck it.  I’m going to have some cookie butter and try to forget my troubles.

I will be back in a few days to show pictures of our new chicks, and maybe talk about the last things I *did* successfully make before I got stuck in a Philadelphia.

And with any luck and a lot of streaming of sub-par horror movies, maybe next week there will be a real WIP Wednesday.

WIP Wednesday

start date: 8 March 2017
time elapsed: one week
completeness: 20%

I had quite a conundrum last week.

I was on strike last Wednesday, you see.  I had a whole day to myself, to do whatever I wanted.  But I couldn’t work on things for my family or my house, because that would have been scabbing.  So I started something new, something that looked fun and would probably teach me things I could stand to learn, but that was far from practical and totally unnecessary.

Something for me.

Those are pretty rare projects, honestly– I usually prioritize the children, then Robert, then the house, then my extended family, my communities, the earth, strangers, and finally myself.

But I had been gazing wistfully at the Ravelry page for this pattern for months, and it was just so pretty, and my crochet skills lag significantly behind all my other pursuits, which would make it a challenge to begin, much less complete.

So I pulled some leftover scraps of yarn out of my stash and started out, tentatively.

I made a flower, and then expanded it to a star.  And in the week since International Women’s Day, I made that star into a sun, and the sun into an octagon, in spare moments here and there between my other work.  Now I’m turning the octagon back into a star, slowly but surely, as this project eats up scraps and leftover single skeins from other projects.

As for what I’ll do with it when I’m finished, well, I don’t know.  For once, my project is about the process, not the product.  Obviously if I finish the whole thing I’ll have a massive piece, big enough to use as a coverlet for my bed, especially if I square up the corners.

Regardless of the finished size, I think what I have here is a fulcrum.  A balance point between frost and fire, in dye and animal hair.  Witchcraft, in short.

Witchcraft.


Yarns, from center of work to edge: Araucania Lauca in 1 French Blue Purple , Stacy Charles Fine Yarns Fiona in 510836, Schachenmayr Juvel in 2 Charcoal Heather, Ella Rae Classic Superwash in 22 Gray, Cascade Rabat in 9 Rainbow, Fyberspates Scrumptious in 316 Charcoal (doubled), Berroco Blackstone Tweed in 2646 Saltwater, Quince and Co. Owl in Cement, Cascade Rabat in 9 Rainbow, Malabrigo Merino Worsted in 75 Garden Gate, Beaverslide Dry Goods 2 ply sport/sock in woodsmoke heather (doubled), Berroco Quasar in 8206, Valley Yarns Northampton in 15 Gold, Berroco Blackstone Tweed in 2607 Wintry Mix, Araucania Riñihue in 1708, Classic Elite Kumara in 5714 Smoke, Malabrigo Rastita in 146 Peacock (blue), Paton’s North America Classic Wool DK Superwash in 12402, indigo worsted/aran from Ithaca Farmer’s Market, unknown silk/merino blend dark gray, Berroco Blackstone Tweed in 2647 Nor’easter, Berroco Blackstone Tweed in 2607 Wintry Mix, Araucania Lauca in 3 Purple Dark Teal

A Touch of Gray

I found my first gray hair yesterday.

There it was, shining out in radiant silver on my brush, immediately obvious among its dark siblings and the near-black bristles.

It was 21 inches long, and according to Robert, it came from right above my left eye.

I was incredulous.  How could I have not seen it for the years it had been growing there, so near my face?  How had I not seen it while braiding my hair one morning?  How could Robert have only noticed it last week?  How could he have NOT told me about it, leaving me to be blindsided by it getting shed onto my brush?

I cried.

I’m not sure why– I wasn’t really sad or scared or feeling another negative emotion– but it happened.

Honestly, I’ve been looking forward to my hair turning so that I can dye it without having to bleach it first.  I’ve been hoping I would be one of those people who grays in dramatic stripes at the temples, for maximum badassery.

But I suppose it was another reminder of my failure to force my life to conform to the plan.  The first indication that I might run out of time to buy that farm, build that house, learn to use my spinning wheel, find purpose for all the great things in my upcycling.

There’s plenty of time yet.  I’m not even 30 yet.  But though the days are long and practically innumerable, the years are short and oh-so-finite.

This is a season of transitions.  The election is coming, this is our last year of “unofficial” homeschooling before Númenor has to be registered with the state, today is the first day of autumn, next week is the start of Robert’s school year, and I’m aging.

Well, I mean, we’re all aging.  Everyone and everything is aging.  Hell, the universe itself is aging.  But you know what I mean.

It’s a little bittersweet, no matter the benefits that might come along with it, this dance of out-with-the-old-and-in-with-the-new that we do each autumn equinox.  I love the bustle of harvest and holiday preparations, canning the applesauce, snuggling in bed in the mornings, mulching the raised beds, adding new insulation to stuff the cracks, the dance of the hand-me-downs with the smalls, the creeping nightly frost, boiling down the salt, cinnamon and leaf mold in the air.  But I’m going to miss the feeling of summer sun on my bare feet, spending the warm evenings at the drive-in, taking my knitting out to the backyard and letting the breeze play with my hair, fresh berries and sun-ripened tomatoes, the smell of warm earth and cedar sap.

I guess the bigger transitions are like that, too.  You look forward to the new things, but leaving the old ones behind means sharp reminders of how good they were.

I never really enjoyed being young.  Being young, you want so badly to be older so you’ll be taken seriously, so you can have your independence, so your life can really begin.  But now I’m seeing it as a time of beautiful potential– you could be or do anything with your life, when it’s all stretched out in front of you like that, but by the time you’re older, you’ve already made choices and spent time and set yourself on a path.

Ah, well.

To grow up will be a very great adventure.

Especially once I have enough gray hair for it to show up when dyed purple.

10 Things I Need to Make this Fall

Now that we’re mired in the part of summer that’s too hot for much of anything– certainly unseasonable for having a big pile of flannel in my lap– but about to leave the last heat wave of the season, I’ve been looking forward to some cool-weather crafting and giving some thought to what needs to happen.

Here’s my list, necessities and fripperies in no particular order, of the top 10 things I need to make in the coming season:

  1. Tea towels.  The flour sack towels that wrapped a few of our favorite kitchen gadget wedding gifts are finally sprouting holes and wearing out.  I’m thinking the new ones are going to be mid-weight natural linen, but the same dimensions as the old ones.
  2. Coat for Númenor.  Another year, another coat.  This one is definitely going to be lined with some of that gorgeous Portland bridges fabric I picked up a few years ago, but I’m not sure what the outer fabric will be like or what pattern I’m going to use.  I might draft my own pattern.
  3. Hoodie for Númenor.  Something fun and slightly funky, as usual.
  4. Twin-size comforter for Ithilien.  In the depths of winter, the nursery gets pretty cold in the middle of the night.  At the moment, we have only one twin-size comforter, and that can cause strife.  I’m planning to whipstitch together a couple of old flannel top sheets, fill with some fluffy recycled fiberfill, and tie it down to quilt it.  The only trouble will be that the sheets I have are green and green-red plaid, and Ithilien is a red-loving kid who might object to the forest tones.  But it’ll be warm regardless.
  5. “What Lives Here?” picture book.  This is one I’ve been puzzling over for some time.  The smalls are always asking what kinds of animals live in our area, especially when we go on drives.  I’m currently working on a collage-style picture book showing different ecosystems and settings and filled with the different animals that might live there.  It’s a huge undertaking, even limiting myself to a 20-mile radius around our house, since we live in a transitional zone between at least three climates.
  6. Toy ankylosaurus for Ithilien.  I made a stegosaurus for Númenor a while back, and Ithilien demanded an ankylosaurus.  How one knits an ankylosaurus I am not sure (possibly with lots of bobbles?), but I’ll figure it out.
  7. Autumn leaf babies.  If you’ve been around a while, you might remember my spring raindrop babies.  I’ve been trying to work up to a whole four-seasons set: snowflakes, raindrops, fruit (or maybe sunshine?), and autumn leaves.  I love dollmaking, and these little felt-and-wood sweeties are downright addictive in their simplicity and appeal.
  8. Altoid tin boredom busters.  We recently inherited a big box of mint tins.  They are the perfect size to tuck in a pocket or purse and you can fill them with anything.  So I’ve been trying to develop a set of toys and activity kits inside Altoid tins for when we travel or waiting at restaurants.
  9. More petticoats for myself.  Hopefully at least two more cotton ones (black, I think) and if I can find room for it in the budget, I would love a woolen flannel one for winter wear.
  10. Halloween costumes.  This year the smalls have both decided on light-themed costumes, which means getting creative with LEDs and possibly wearable circuitry.  Númenor’s might yet be merged with his hoodie, but we have yet to have our first formal design meeting, so it’s very much still TBD.

 

 


 

What about you?  What are you looking forward to making as the weather changes?

Words for Scary Times

People are telling you to be afraid, to lash out, to barricade yourself in for fear of losing what little you have.

People are telling you that you’re doing it wrong, that you’re too loud, too brash, too unpolished, that your laugh is grating, that your smile is a sneer.

People are telling you that you take up too much space, that your standards are too high, that you’re being unrealistic, that you’re part of the problem.

That’s the language of fear.

Don’t let it close your mind.

I know you better than that.  You do, too.

You are brave.  You are a force for good.  You are fighting the good fight.

You are strong.  You speak truth to power.  You keep coming back and trying again.

You are loving.  You are the lullaby in the night.  You are the warm embrace.  You are the hope for a brighter day.

Don’t run away.  Reach out.

Don’t hoard.  Share.

Don’t see enemies.  Build community.

Don’t stand silent.  Speak up.

Don’t shrink.  Bloom.

 


A lot of people are struggling right now, me included.  These are the words that came to me today– I thought they might do someone else some good, too.

Stay safe out there, friends.  Take good care of yourselves, and each other.

 

 

Go Outside and Breathe

I know it’s late.

It’s hot.

It’s buggy.

You’re tired.

You just want to sit inside all day and do nothing, run out the clock on this day, and maybe try again tomorrow.

That mosquito bite on the sole of your left foot is driving you crazy and has made you shy away from sitting outside in the gathering dusk or the rising dawn or the fleeting midday shade.

Your stomach aches, whether from too much food or too little or the wrong kind you’re not sure, but it’s uncomfortable.

Your children are wild and full of evening energy, and their whooping and leaping makes you anxious and unnerved.

The thought of the sun on your skin reminds you of your uneven tan, its obvious lines, and how, if you were a responsible person, you probably would have bought sunscreen before late July.

I know.  I understand.

But sometimes you need to go outside anyway.  Even though it’s not easy.  Even though you’d rather plug in and tune out.

Because the grass is dried to hay-blond and its susurration in the breeze tells a secret.

Because the mourning dove is trying out his gentle call from that oak tree, right there outside the kitchen door.

Because the hills seem so close you could reach out and touch them but also a part of a golden fairyland in the lateral evening light.

Because the cross orb weaver on your tomato plant is just putting the finishing touches on tonight’s silken net.

Because the sky is still so blue.

Because the hens are clucking softly to themselves as they forage for a few last bites.

Because the blackberries are so ripe they stain your fingers no matter how tenderly you pick them.

Because the butterflies are chasing each other over the brambles and across the fences.

Because the wind smells sweet with hay and spicy with cookfire smoke and fresh from the river.

Right now, a Steller’s jay is stopping off in your fir tree to select nesting materials.

Right now, a train whistle is echoing off the ridges and over the water.

Right now, the breeze is freshening just a little and the sky is ocean-deep.

Right now, the scent of warmed earth and crushed blackberry is more summery than anything you’ve ever known before.

From out here, the children’s cries are muted and distant, and you can love them for their untamed nature.

From out here, you can’t hear the big bad world– or those mean-girl voices in your head– at all.

From out here, the work piled up on your desk doesn’t seem quite real, and you can have faith that there will be time enough for everything.

When you’re outside, you can breathe.

Try it.

Breathe in deep through your nose.  Open your mind wide and be present.  Breathe out slowly through your mouth, open your chest and release your spent and troubled air.

Breathe.

This is but one day of a lifetime.  Nothing has to be finished nor perfect today.

Breathe.

This is where you are now, and it is good.

Breathe.

This is all you are, this moment in the setting sun, this place full of hay-scented grasses and straw-colored hair on little heads, all bowing to you in recognition and shaking irreverently in the breeze.

Breathe.

 

You are the breath of your home, your family– you, too, must go in and out.

Regularly.

Deeply.

Consciously.

To release the toxins, and let the trees worry about recycling them.

To take in what you need to live, what the mosses and the weeds give back to you.

So go.

No more excuses.

It can’t wait until tomorrow, not this time.

Go.

Go outside, and breathe.

 

WIP Wednesday

Lately I’ve been stuck.  Overwhelmed by the world around me, unable to concentrate, mired in several long and intricate projects at once…generally in a funk.

This week, though, I hit upon a bit of a solution.

I took this fancy new linen bag my mom found for me at the thrift store, stuck a couple little balls of scrap yarn in the bottom, and went on a baby sock knitting adventure.

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When I first learned to knit, I swore I would never be a sock knitter.  The tiny yarn, the slippery double-pointed needles, the complex technique, the repetition (because you have to start all over to make the second sock…) and the need for a fairly accurate fit made a seemingly insurmountable barrier to my ever taking up that particular craft.  But after a couple years, when I had to be knitting for a baby anyway, I finally decided to give it a try.

That first pair of plain Jane worsted-weight cotton (!) baby socks may not be anything special or even particularly beautiful, but they represented a major victory in terms of facing my fears.

As a cripplingly anxious person, to have attempted something so far out of my comfort zone and met with even modest success was a major testament to what force of will could do for me.

In the few years since then, I’ve knit cabled boot socks for Robert, basic socks in shockingly bright colors for the smalls, tube socks I invented myself, intricate socks as gifts in tiny yarns and grown-up sizes, and even a selfish pair of gray show-off lacy socks for myself.

And my baby sock collection has slowly grown to cover most sizes and most needs, because the best way to try out a new sock style or technique or color combo is to make a pair of tiny trial socks, and because baby socks are such an excellent way to use up leftover bits of lightweight yarn.

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This week, I’ve tried roll-top socks, plain socks, and snuggly winter socks (which Ithilien promptly lost somewhere in the nursery), and now I’m working on a second pair of socks knitted lengthwise in a cheery self-striping yarn.

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From here, I’m going to try the really adventurous stuff: manual vertical pinstripes (I’m thinking gray and purple) and Victorian socks on two needles.

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And hopefully, by the time I’m done with all those, the mental fog I’ve been in will lift, the world will be a little kinder and safer, and we can all carry on doing our real work.