A stitch in time

It’s Halloween this weekend, which means that’s it’s almost too late to be thinking about handmade Christmas gifts.


If you read regularly, you know that things have been rocky for us lately. I haven’t been able to do much of anything creative. But I want to, and I’ve been collecting inspiration.

It started with this:

Embroidered napkins

Image via Apartment Apothecary. Click on it to see a nice tutorial.

It reminded me of the year my mom and I embroidered a tablecloth and napkins for my grandmother, and I started thinking that it might be nice to make some embroidered napkins for my mom.

She has this set of china:

Lennox Weatherly china

Lenox Weatherly

When I was younger, I thought it was so boring. Now, I think it is classic and beautiful–and would look lovely with embroidered napkins.

She also has painted wine glasses similar to these, which she often uses with the china:

wine glasses

Image via Etsy shop HelensGiftStore

I haven’t done much embroidery since I was a  teenager, back when embroidery kits were a thing that crafty people did.

embroidered basket

I did a little bit back in February, when I was working on the Valentine card that never got finished, and I think I’d like to dive further into this particular realm again.

Scan 91

I haven’t gotten as far as really doing anything yet, but I have collected some inspiration:

I like the simple lines and old-fashioned sweetness of the flowers on these tea towels from Etsy shop PrettyPMamaB:

tea towels

If I decide to go with this sort of look, I might create my own designs using something from vintage patterns such as these:

vintage embroidery designs

Vintage embroidery designs from Knitting-and.com

I’m also liking these images for a more modern take on florals with simple lines:

Chalk Botanicals clip art from Etsy shop StudioDenmark

Chalk Botanicals clip art from Etsy shop StudioDenmark

I could go in another direction and do something more modern/graphic. I like how this design grows out of the corner, which might be really cool on a napkin:

graphic flower

Image via Maybe Matilda

If I’m going to go more bold/modern/graphic, I’ve also got these for inspiration/creative-pump priming:

Image via Etsy shop KFNeedleworkDesign

Image via Etsy shop KFNeedleworkDesign

Image via The Createry

Image via The Createry

But I might want to do something really different, like this:

Image via The Fabric Shopper

Image via The Fabric Shopper

or this:

Image via Upcyclist

I’m not really sure which way I want to go with this. My mom tends to like florals that are sweet and old-fashioned. (My taste runs more to modern/graphic.) Something like this might appeal to her taste and mine; I like the juxtaposition of the traditional flowers on a patterned fabric, rather than a solid:

Image via Pretty by Hand

Image via Pretty by Hand

This might work, too:

Image via Cazadora de Insperacion

Image via Cazadora de Insperacion

Some projects I do when in this kind of creative space don’t go any further than a Pinterest board. I think that’s OK; feasting on others’ work always feeds something in our own creative beast, so I never consider the browsing/pinning to be wasted time. But this one I’ve actually pulled the trigger on. I bought a tablecloth today (although it could be returned if I decide to bail), and I went to the fabric store to see what I could see.

fabric Collage

Clearly, I saw a lot and emerged with no coherent vision for this project. That’s OK, too. I’ve found I need to have a scouting trip, where I just look a lot and snap photos with my phone. The first visit is always overwhelming, but I let what I see stew around a bit and soon a direction emerges.

I hope to get back there this weekend, but it is Halloween and who knows how it will go. Luckily, there’s nearly two months until the gift needs to be given, so I think I’ll be good.

In the meantime, going to sign off with a throwback picture that always makes me smile. I loved these years with these two:


They were not the creative costume years. 🙂 Those came later…

Wednesday Words


Not Waving but Drowning

Stevie Smith, 19021971

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Photo Credit: kmakice via Compfight cc
Poem:  http://www.poetryfoundation.org/learning/poem/175778

Taking a stand

One summer, I took a fluffy fun writing class called Write Around Portland, in which our class went to various places around Portland (OR) and wrote stuff that we would then read aloud to each other. That’s how I came to be sitting on the floor of a tattoo parlor one day with a small group of fellow teachers, reading aloud a piece I’d written about why I’d never get a tattoo.

That summer I was contemplating the possible end of my marriage, which meant that my ideas about permanence were shifting (more like lurching) to all kinds of  uncomfortable places in my head–which might explain why the idea of getting a tattoo was about as unthinkable to me then as divorce had once been.

When I finished, there was a moment of silence, and then the big, burly, heavily-tattooed  guy behind the counter (because, of course, he had to be big and burly and heavily-tattooed, right?) leaned over that counter and stabbed his finger at me and growled,

“You need to learn how to make a commitment!”

Nah, this isn't a post about getting a tattoo. But this temporary one I got at a library conference last weekend is tempting!

Nah, this isn’t a post about getting a tattoo. But this temporary one I got last weekend is tempting!

I still struggle with commitment, with doing big things that are hard to undo–which is why my latest project is an easy-to-undo standing desk.


Six years ago I left the classroom and took a job that required me to sit for much of the day. If I had been a teacher like Ditto, that wouldn’t have meant much to my physical well-being:

But I wasn’t a teacher like Ditto. I rarely sat at my desk. Now, after 6 years of mostly sitting through my work day, I can see that it’s taking a toll on my body. I not only look different, but I feel different–and I think that’s about more than just aging.

This summer (like every summer since I stopped teaching) I could feel my body getting back into better shape. Although I do get to the gym more in the summer than during the school year, I realized that most of my “exercise” came from just being up on my feet more. I was working in the yard, painting walls, cleaning house. So, I decided that this year I would have a standing desk at work. (Want to read about the benefits of standing desks? Check out this or this. Although not everyone agrees that they are great.)

Problem is, standing desks aren’t cheap, and I wasn’t sure that it was really going to work for me. I didn’t want to invest in something that I might not want to stick with.

I considered several different kinds of hacks to transform my traditional desk into a standing desk, but none of the ones I found seemed super-feasible. I was still going to have to pay quite a bit for parts, and I wasn’t even sure I’d like standing for most of the day. (You can see a nice round-up of Ikea standing-desk hacks here.)

On top of that, making sure the parts would put the desk at the right height started to seem pretty tricky, pretty fast. I had my existing desk, which I didn’t want to get rid of. (Too much hassle.) I wanted something I could put on top of the existing desk, and it needed to be at just the right height, or I was going to have other kinds of physical issues from poor ergonomics.


Image via Wired.

I also didn’t want to lose any work space. Most of the Ikea desk tops  I originally considered weren’t as large as my existing desk top, which I tend to use all of.

I began wondering what I could use other than table legs to elevate a desktop, when I suddenly realized I was surrounded by just the thing I needed:  Books!


As I shared during the summer, part of library business is discarding books, and we had a mess of textbooks in the back room of the library waiting to go. I originally thought I’d use a random collection of weeded books–and cover them with pages from about-to-be-recycled books so my desk would look cute and Pinterest-worthy (instead of random and janky)–but when I saw these I knew they were a much better deal. Because they are all the same size, I wouldn’t have to do any futzing around to get the desk level. And I gave up on the idea of covering them because ain’t nobody got that kind of time. Well, I know some people do, but I’m not one of them.

covered books seen on 3meadowlakecottage

Image via The Precious Little Things in Life

That left just the top. When I measured my existing desk top, I realized that it was almost exactly the same size as a half-sheet of plywood–which is much less expensive than the Ikea desk tops I considered and was the right size.

So Cane and I went off to Mr. Plywood (shop local!), where I found a lovely piece of birch plywood. My half-sheet ran me about $35 (I think). All I needed to do was stain and poly it, and I’d be good to go.

Now, here is another place where my project could easily have gone off the rails. I started thinking, why not make the top look really cool? Maybe I could paint some awesome geometric design on it, or do something creative with stain.

You know, like this great table top from Domestic Imperfection.

You know, like this great table top from Domestic Imperfection.

But I had a Monday morning to get it done, and I knew that if I didn’t get it done, it was going to be another week of me sitting. I decided I was more committed to my health than to creative exploration on this one.

I did let myself have a little bit of fun and bought a grey stain.

HIghly recommend snapping a quick photo of your paint/stain cans--so you can know later exactly what brand/color you used.

Highly recommend snapping a quick photo of your paint/stain cans–so you can know later exactly what brand/color you used.

Then it was simply a matter of painting the stain on and rubbing it off:


I really liked how the stain made the grain stand out:


I put two coats of stain on, then two coats of poly. The hardest part of the project was getting it into my office. I had to carry the desk top in by myself, and it was heavy. I dropped it on my foot, which is still stiff/sore almost a month later.

Yes, it's a blurry phone shot and I was in desperate need of a manicure. But look at that bruise!

Yes, it’s a blurry phone shot and I was in desperate need of a pedicure. But look at that bruise!

But I love the desk!


I do think I need to get a pad to stand on. And I’m more committed than ever to buying quality shoes. One of Cane’s mantras is “I’m too old for that $h!t,” and I’m definitely too old for crappy shoes, especially if I’m going to be standing in them for most of the day.

But the desk is great, and I do feel better now that I’m standing more.

laptop on dictionaries

I did need to boost the laptop higher, but I didn’t want to raise the whole desktop because it would go higher than the windowsill. These discard dictionaries make it just the right height.

I don’t stand all the time. I’m lucky that my little office has another work/desk area, and I sit here when I’m working on a project that requires  creative thinking. I’ve found that I do prefer to sit when I’m figuring out something conceptual, probably because I’m drafting my thinking by hand on a note pad.


So, even though the tattoo guy thought I was incapable of committing, I think I am. I’m becoming committed to my health. Still working on a few other things.


My daughter gave me this postcard with good reason. 🙂



Welcome to Siberia

Welcome to Holland, a pretty famous essay about having a child with a disability, likens the experience to ending up in Holland when one has booked a trip to Italy. While it contains some important truths, it doesn’t really capture the disability story I’ve been living, one of parenting a child who develops serious mental health issues during adolescence . So, I wrote my own version. I call it, “Welcome to Siberia.”

Having a baby is like moving to a fabulous foreign country–say, Italy. Sure, it takes a while to get used to living in a whole new land, but…it’s Italy. There’s sun, and good food, and beautiful things to see, and everyone loves bambinos.


Years pass, and life goes along as life does, largely without notice, but one day you and the rest of your family get on a train that doesn’t stop where you expected to get off.

You tell yourself that it’s no big deal and that you’ll just exit at the next stop, but the train moves past it, too. You’re not sure of what to do. You’re not even sure if you should worry. I mean, you’re all safe, and you’re in Italy of all places.

But stop after stop ticks by, and the train is picking up speed, and you start to feel a bit panicked. You look around for a conductor, some kind of helper, but no one seems to know what’s going on.


The train keeps going, and because you’re so stunned by the unexpected weirdness of what’s happening, it takes a while for you to register that the train is on its way out of the country, out of your country, your beloved Italy. It’s just so unbelievable. I mean, how did you all get trapped on a train to…where is this train going anyway?

You travel through terrain you think you’ve maybe read about somewhere, but it’s nowhere you’ve ever wanted to visit, and at some point (you don’t know where, because you still don’t know where the hell you are), you let go of your denial-fueled belief that someone is going to fix this obvious mistake and help you get back to Italy right away. You become angry, and sad, and in quiet moments when the kids aren’t looking you admit to yourself that you are very, very scared.

Just when you finally accept that you may never return to Italy, the train stops. The doors open, and you step into…Siberia.


The first thing you notice is that it is really fucking cold in Siberia.

The kids start whining and you know that none of you are equipped for this place. You don’t even have warm coats. Your co-parent (because parenting has become the defining element of your relationship to each other) shoots you a look that says, “How in the hell are we all going to survive this?

No one welcomes you to Siberia, but after awhile you see that there are some other people here. You’re desperate for information (Why are we here? How do we make it in this place? How do we get back home?), but you’re also afraid to approach them, afraid to get too close, afraid it might mean that this exile is not just some horrible dream.


You’re lonely and you want to talk to someone, but you’re also not sure you really want to hear what any of these people might have to tell you. You know it’s not rational, but on some level you think that if you accept them and this place, it will seal your fate, make it impossible for you to leave. And you really, really want to leave. You make small talk, but your heart’s not in it.

Your heart is back in Italy.

You send letters and emails home, trying to explain to friends and family still there what happened to you. Some you don’t hear back from, and some send messages full of advice that only works in Italy.

Clearly, they have never been to Siberia.

Some want to understand and help, they truly do, but you can’t find the words to convey how sharply a Siberian wind can cut, how empty the sky can feel. Some tell you it must not be so different from being in Holland (even though they’ve never been there, either), and you kinda want to snap at them,

“Do you know what I’d give to see a goddamn tulip right now?”

But you know they mean well and they’re trying to help and it’s not their fault you’ve been sent to this godforsaken place where you’re pretty sure tulips will never, ever grow.

It’s hard to keep trying to explain, and you’re more than a little afraid that everyone back home is wondering what you did to make this happen to your family (because that’s what you are wondering, too), so you begin sending messages with general pleasantries instead:

“The sky was blue today.”

“It was nice to have some warm soup.”

“The wind has died down a bit.” 

Your Italian friends miss you, but they seem relieved when it seems that you’ve begun to adjust. You still love them and they love you, but you know the relationships probably can’t be quite the same, what with them there and you here, in Siberia.


Eventually, just as when you moved to Italy, life goes back to going along as life does, and you become accustomed to your “new normal.” Still, you really miss Italy sometimes. You wish you’d appreciated more of it while you were there. You wonder if it would have been easier to have lived all those earlier years in Holland and never known Italy. You wonder if Holland is where you’re going to end up, and you’re just on this arduous detour through Siberia because that’s the path for parents who got to live in Italy first.

But mostly–because you now understand that you will never return to Italy and that anyone can be exiled at any time, with no warning–you allow yourself to let these questions go, and you surrender to Siberia.

Gradually, your expectations change. Your dreams change. You become grateful for different sorts of things–like, that you still have dreams and expectations. That although the landscape’s beauty is of the desolate kind, there is beauty, and you do see it.


It’s only then you realize that even in Siberia, there are seasons. There are days, weeks, even months  of relative warmth, and damn if there aren’t even a few tulips after all–flowers more lovely to you than any that ever bloomed in Italy, not in small part because they are rare, and because they’ve blossomed where you once thought nothing delicate could grow.

siberian tulip

Ball Crawl Photo Credit: Rita Ott Ramstad
Moving Train Photo Credit: Cellanova via Compfight cc
Winter Tundra Photo Credit: Photo Credit: dration via Compfight cc
Boots Photo Credit: sibwarden via Compfight cc
Mail Photo Credit: Ian Broyles via Compfight cc
Siberian Beauty Photo Credit: sidnegail via Compfight cc
Siberian Tulip Photo Credit:  http://www.plantarium.ru/page/image/id/56178.html