Friday, February 22, 2013


i had what they call a "side by side" at work the other day with my boss.  it's just a check in, usually about 30 minutes, where you go over your stats (call time, availability, accuracy, that sort of thing), see if there's anything you need help with, and let you know if anything new/interesting is going on.  they're really informal, and my supervisor is honestly a nice woman.  i feel comfortable talking to her.  we were talking about call volume, and how after the first the year it picks up and how busy we've been lately.  she asked how i was keeping up with everything, if i was feeling overwhelmed, and i was as surprised as her when i said, "honestly, no."  afterward i really started thinking about it, and wondering why with this massive glut of calls, non-stop action, i wasn't as spazzed out as i normally would be.  some days the endless beeping in your ear and not having time to wrap things up or follow up on other things leaves me feeling frazzled and exhausted. 

our busiest day of the year at the call center i work in is the day after president' day.  for real.  no one knows why this is exactly, but it seems to be a perfect storm of factors; early in the year, when people have new plans, the day after a three day weekend, the moon and mars converging or something.  for whatever reason, people in insurance know that this is the day when literally everyone calls in.  i talked to customer service reps at a few other insurance companies and they all said the same thing!  the lights on our phones were red all day long, and there was barely time to type up your notes between them.  it was absolutely crazy. 

normally after a day like that, i got home and have beers and go to bed.  this time, i didn't.  i went to my sewing nook and did some work on that ridiculous stash-busting pinwheel project.  it felt good to get in there, put on some music, and cut and sew and iron everything out. 

thinking about that day i realized that what's different now is what i've been doing outside of work.  yes, we are seriously busy and i should be weeping with the futility of answering the same three questions for hours a day, but i'm not.  i think taking the time to work on something creative, something that requires my full attention, a project with enough fiddly bits and math to make it work on all parts of my brain, has actually affected how i'm doing at work.  i'm more relaxed, but not sluggish.  it's like i can let go of work for a bit, just thinking about colors and patterns and feeling the fabric in my hands.  it's also kind of physical in that you're up and down a lot, and there's a lot of standing to iron everything out.  for a woman who sits down for 8 hours a day, that's awesome.  knitting has a lot of the same satisfaction, but i tend to knit while watching tv which i think kind of cancels out the zoning/creative bit of time.  sewing also produces results that are quicker to see.  i think the variety in my creative time is also helpful, and there will probably come a time when i'm stoked on other kinds of projects.  stopping to think about how what i do at home affects my days at work was eye-opening.  it's so tempting to come home and watch tv and eat dinner and zone out, but that isn't what's good for my brain, i guess.  working it out in different ways didn't make me more tired, it made me less tired.  i'm sure someone out there has written a paper about this, but it never made sense to me until it happened.  so not only is work feeling good, i'm about half way through making a warm, cozy quilt that i can use on days when i do just need to come home and lay down and read!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

needle and thread

i haven't done much sewing the past few years.  a pair of curtains here, hemming some pants there, but nothing serious.  working on that long-forgotten quilt has kind of stirred it up for me.  i cut out some squares tonight, cut those into triangles, and am now sewing them back into squares. 

i kind of think my husband isn't going to be thrilled with this new development.  hobbies are better than a lot of habits i could have, i suppose.  the project i'm working on right now too is actually using up a big chunk of my fabric stash too, so there's that.  yeah, that's the point i'm going to stress when he asks what the iron is still doing out...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

the longest quilt

 i started this quilt over ten years ago.  well over ten years ago.  i got all the blocks cut own and sewn together in long strips, and even got some of the strips sewn together when i put it in a bag, and forgot all about it. 
 i ran into it again when we moved into the new house.  that was over a year ago.  did i start working on it then?  no, of course not! 
 i think my mom inspired me to pull it out and work on it; last week she mentioned an afghan she had started sometime in the 90's and how she found it in the hall closet and had a friend help her remember the stitch (it's crochet, and we normally knit), and how it was now almost done. 
you can tell this is an early quilt of mine in a few ways, one of them being that at the time i was pretty obsessed with asian fabrics.  most of this was imported, and kind of pricey.  the other thing you can tell is that overall, my sense of color wasn't that great.  i didn't have a good grasp on light and dark color values, and this is all pretty "matchy," although it is still very pretty.  if the fabric you're working with is lovely, there isn't much you can do to distract from that.  i think if i had made it now, it would "pop" a bit more. 
today i pulled it out, ironed the hell out of it, and finished putting it together.  then my stepdaughter and i went to joann's fabrics and picked out a nice, all cotton navy blue to do the border and back with.  it won't end up being a quilt, though.  it's going to be a duvet cover for one of the hundreds of comforters we have.  seriously, when i married D, i brought a ridiculous amount of blankets into a house that had it's own treasure trove.  when this family lounges, we LOUNGE.  this will look great on our downstairs couch, and if i didn't have to wash and dry the fabric before using it, i wouldn't even be writing this post, i'd be busy sewing!  i can't even tell you how much fun i had today sewing.  it felt so good to get that part of my nook cleared out and listen to podcasts and just sew away.  i probably spent a good three hours in my room goofing off, and it was wonderful.  i'll have to do more of that, obviously. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

cubicle farming

my sister and i have this terrible thing we do at work, which is refer to people on the other side of the divide as "the others."  they're probably on the calls we overhear the most, just because of the way our desks are set up.  the people in your actual row, ahead of you and behind you, are actually much farther away, whereas the person who sits on the other side of the cubicle divide is basically two feet away.  it's literally impossible not to hear them talking on the phone, or to each other.  that last part makes me nuts because i never chit chat with my neighbors because you know, i'm always on a call or working! also, we have this new, amazing technology to cut down on the noise at work called "instant messaging."  we're encouraged to use it so there isn't a lot of background noise when we're on calls.  no one ever needs to yell across an aisle because as a matter of fact, it's required that we have it up and operating the whole time we're at work.   

puppygate 2013, which is what we're now calling that breakdown about the death of a dog last week, is the main topic of conversation lately for my others. the woman in question literally won't shut up about the new puppy she's getting tomorrow.  new puppy this, new puppy that, new puppy all the time!  we've already established that i can be a bit uncaring, but i can't help but feel like maybe she's getting this puppy too soon.   it makes her grief seem less authentic to me.  yes, it felt staged to me at the time too, but now i'm almost more convinced that this is more about attention and drama than the sweet, fuzzy love a person feels for their pet.  i know, i know, everyone grieves their own way and we're all indvidual snowflakes of amazing, but jesus, she can't wait a week?  i think a week given over to sadness for a dog you loved is reasonable.

and it makes me think of LuLu, my sweet girl, and how she's been gone for three months now. part of me feels ready for a new pet, and part of me thinks that would be a dick thing to do because she's barely been gone.  i miss her all the time.  i still look for her at the front door when i wake up, i still have a giant bag of barely touched cat food, i keep her catnip mushroom in my knitting basket and her magical kitten whiskers in the jar on our mantle.  i still talk about her like she's here, but i suspect that has to do with just not knowing what happened.  she was a good cat and we loved her.  i don't want to rush into a new relationship with a pet.  i guess if i met another funny, talkative cat at work who jumped into my car, i'd go with it, but no kitten shopping for me just yet. 

Friday, February 01, 2013

on being slightly brown

(for those of you who don't know, my pop was native american.  from the cheyenne river sioux reservation, to be exact; he was lakota sioux.)

one of the things i remember vividly from growing up was my friend christina's dad fascination with "traditional cultures."  he was a man who did yoga well before it was cool, he was a vegetarian when we were all happily eating cheeseburgers, he was bearded when all our dads were clean shaven.  it was weird, but he was like this little piece of the 70s, leftover for us to enjoy.  i didn't even know incense existed before i met this man.  he literally introduced me to patchouli, which to this day i have a weird love of.

one day, while doing something or another with him, he told me about an experience he'd had with the "great spirit."  to me it felt like it came out of left field, but looking back at it, i imagine he thought about having this talk with me before it happened.  at some point before this, he figured out what kind of brown my dad was, and then went from being totally uninterested in his daughter's exceedingly weird and awkward friend to fascinated.  my dad was kind of an enigma because he wasn't around because of the navy, and when he wore short hair he really could have been a million things.  real indian, from india, mexican, spanish, or native american.  i knew my dad was indian, i knew in a way that i was (am) indian, but also knew that we weren't the "right" kind of indian.  we had cable tv, we didn't recycle, we only went to the rez on vacation, and until my dad's dying day, he was a dyed-in-the-wool catholic.  in fact, until right about the time christina's dad figured out what my dad was, i never really thought about it much.  it was a weird trivia piece to throw around, like the fact that one of my grandfather's had a glass eye and my mother had an accent from the east coast.

when i was about 16, christina and i went over to her dad's for dinner.  he lived downtown, and we went for a walk either before or after eating, and while winding up some alley between shops, he told me about his vision quest and his encounter with the great spirit.  to him, it had obviously been a "thing."  he wanted to talk to me about the "old ways," and what kinds of ceremonies my dad had been involved in (the answer: none), and what did i know about my own culture and how sad it was i wasn't very interested because here i had this cultural treasure i was ignoring.  i'm pretty sure no one ever says that to an irish kid who's third generation, but maybe i'm bitter.  the truth is, now as it was then, that i don't really look indian.  say what you want, but that shapes ones feeling of culture and race.  i'm indian enough to be enrolled in the tribe, but i look like any other cultural tourist at a pow wow.  he kept going on and on about all this history and tradition i was leaving behind, and how could i call myself a catholic when they did terrible things to my people and didn't i know i had a responsibility to preserve the ways of my people?

looking back on it now, i see how insulted i should have been. i recall thinking, "how did you get to talk to the great spirit? my dad can't get a visit."  i thought he was full of shit, but figured he knew what he was talking about.  the way i understood the great spirit, it was this big thing, this life energy of the universe and nature, and why couldn't a white guy who covered his bald spot with a beret have a chat with it?  i'd never sought it out, so what did i know? 

i feel okay about being the kind of indian i am now.  i know a bit more about native american culture than some people, i love my cousins, but i don't feel like i have this big cache of knowledge to protect and/or pass on.  i feel as good knowing that some of my ancestors lived here, traveled in great groups hunting and camping out under the stars, as knowing that some of people were seafaring and invented salted cod around the same time.  i'm a product of a mixed and crazy world, and while i don't look indian the way anyone thinks i should, i do have incredible hair.