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Creativity During Times of Transition and Waiting

Since I last posted, my creative tastes have charged full-bore right into sewing. Not that there is anything wrong with jewelry making (perish the thought, philistines!!). On the contrary, I still maintain my lovely boxes of shiny beads, but I suppose I touch them less often. This is the beauty of living in the current crafting/home sewing renaissance: it’s all there, patiently waiting it’s turn.

Something I’ve been pondering and struggling with lately as a casual crafter happy to play at making things is how deeply creativity is affected by anxiety. I had big plans for this summer to concentrate on upping my sewing skills, finally re-stock my Etsy store, and touch all manner of exciting fabric. (This is really what sewing is about. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.) AND THEN…my anxiety about the unknowns of an upcoming transition my husband and I are working toward took over. I fell into a creative depression in July. Then I was horribly sick and too weak to create on any single day of August. (No exaggerations. ANY. SINGLE. DAY.) This did leave me plenty of time to ponder July’s lack of creative oomph, though.

Now, I have the luxury of not having to depend on my crafting creativity to feed us. So when I talk about anxiety affecting creativity, this is apart from the economic need to slog through. In July, I felt torn between the now and the not yet, which made creating in the now a non-starter. August’s sickness helped to clear my head (not to mention the antibiotics) because I missed the whole process: the planning, the trial and error, the pride at finishing something with my own hands. The first day I was truly able, I was back at the sewing machine and feeling so much stronger mentally. (By the way, there may be a correlation between the way the flu and throat infection made drinking coffee untenable and my lack of creative juice. Just a thought.)


As I happily added some yellow thread to the new purse I had been dreaming of while feverish, I realized that being capable of physically working through a creative process, never mind the outcome, is a big part of my identity. The anxiety that blocked and inhibited that process worked me over a bit. (And look, sometimes we can control anxiety, and other times, we just have to work through it. I’m not now looking back and telling myself I did something wrong. It’s done and now I learn.)

My thirties are turning out to be really great for introspection.

The relationship between creativity and anxiety is complex. A friend of mine recently described her experience as a caretaker for her mother at the end of her mother’s life. While waiting for the end, she knitted furiously, finishing project after project. Once it was over, she found she has been unable to finish anything, like her focus has been scattered. Hearing this made me sad because I love her very much, and because the creative output that helped her survive those difficult days is not yet helping her work through her grief. Creativity is a deeply personal process.

What about you? Do you feel a link between your inner emotional state and creative output?

Next up, Creativity and the Self: Blogging as Risk

Reading Lately: the Tana French Dublin Murder Squad Books

Listening to: Fiona Apple’s “Daredevil” 




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Spring has Sprung


The academic quarter is nearly over, which means that of course, I am procrastinating just a little bit. (Only a smidge…if smidges are a significant amount.) I don’t know what it is with creative inspiration and deadlines. Whenever I have a paper due, that’s when my crafting itch acts up and creativity starts shouting louder in my ears than normal. It is perhaps not coincidental that spring is in the air.

Even our apartment complex feels that the season is changing. I notice that people walk differently and laugh loudly more often when the weather seems to call for it. Lately the upstairs neighbors are cackling more than fighting, which has got to be a sign of some sort!

Of course, the best part of spring is the lushening of the local grasses and the blooming of flowers. My favorite has always been the daffodil, which proudly pops up every year and only lasts a short time. They look proud and bold. If I was mostly that lovely, creamy yellow color on top, I suppose I would feel the same way. (Oh come on…allow me my poetic license!)


PS I added a bunch of flowers to my Etsy shop in honor of the season. Check them out here.


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The Joys of I Love Lucy


One of our simplest joys lately is to let I Love Lucy play in the background while we read or study. I admit I am a little bit of a latecomer to the I Love Lucy series, even though I’ve known about it for forever. For whatever reason, I had never sat down and watched it. If you are like me in that respect, let me tell you now, stop putting it off and just watch it already, but leave your cynicism behind. The series is available on Hulu.

Lucille Ball is such a delight to watch. I have laughed harder at her antics that at anything else I’ve seen for a long time.

This is my favorite episode so far! Watch it here.

Wait until you see Lucy “vamping” Cousin Ernie…it will just kill you.

Ernie Ford was one of many wonderful guests stars on the Lucy show. It’s been fun to google various names and get the history of whoever shows up. Most of the performers who appeared on the show have died by now, so it is especially fascinating to see the trajectory of their careers. It makes us wistful for the time when pop culture and entertainment had less corrosive power than it seems to now.

So watch a few episodes and tell me what you think! Did you guffaw like a donkey, the way I did?

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Of Beaded Chains and the Studious Newlywed Life


At last all the wedding stuff is just about wrapped up. Now I am back to being a grad student and the sweet life of bathing in literature everyday. As you can imagine, that means a plethora of weird habits and distractions come up in order to help my brain process ideas. Between being sick and a heavy workload, we’ve spent a lot of time lately reading or watching stuff on Netflix. Now, I know that nobody really wants to read about this, but being a newlywed is rough on the attention span. (Although, hell, we have earned the right to be disgustingly cute now and then, one could argue.) So when my brain has had all it can handle of feminist criticism and ESL learning techniques, it helps to have something to work on so I can leave The Hub to his own work without wanting to get his attention, like a Jack Russell terrier, jumping as high as his head. That’s what comes to mind, anyway, when I think of how I feel watching him so focused on his laptop.

It could be that being crafty is a good thing for my marriage.

When I feel antsy, I need a project that I can just pick up and do fast without too much thought. The knitted blanket project (that I haven’t touched in how long?) is out because I do not want to mess that puppy up this far along. What I’m left with is simply connecting beads together with wire, one after another. This afternoon I made a hugely long strand before I even realized what I had done. It was great. Not sure yet what I’ll be doing with it, but who cares? Maybe it will end up being as long as the blanket that Tita knits in Like Water for Chocolate to deal with her feelings… Or perhaps it will end up as a Lady Gaga -esque dress? Or giant garland to circle my apartment with? Oooooooo! A beaded curtain! That could be fun.

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We Got Married, Part 4: The Ceremony

We decided for our ceremony that while we did want some traditional things, we also wanted every element to feel as personal as we could make it. I am enormously pleased with how it all turned out!

Our wedding party consisted of my brother (as the minister), Stephany as the Matron of Honor, my nephew as the “Ring Dude”, and the adorable daughter of some friends as our Flower Girl. Her name is Audrey, and she is about the same age as my nephew. The two of them have a lot of fun playing together. It was quite hilarious to watch the two of them concentrate very carefully on practicing the “wedding walk”. Audrey is an experienced flower girl (so she told me), so she had no problem with the whole step, together, step thing. The Neph, however, would step with the same foot every time and drag his other foot behind him. Very, very cute. He was all business about it, too. Both of them were excellently behaved and sweet. Knowing what a nightmare of a flower girl I was for my own aunt’s wedding when I was Audrey’s age, I am especially impressed.

Audrey carried a basket full of silk rose petals that was fancified by Marilyn, which Audrey apparently quite rigorously distributed on her way up the aisle. Her parents were our amateur but splendid photographers for the ceremony. They were fantastic. (How awesome is that? The connections my family has…sheesh!)


The Neph carried a branch that I painted silver with both rings tied to it with satiny, black ribbon. Originally I had in mind a much thicker branch carried on a silver platter, on top of a piece of black velvet. First of all, I forgot all about the branch until the very last minute, and secondly, once we thought about it, asking a 4 year old to carry a complicated platter situation was a bit much. So, we improvised to good effect. The Nephew was adorably careful with the branch. You can see in the picture how he is sticking his pinky out, like he is afraid to handle it too much!

The wedding party entered to Ella Fitzgerald singing “Love You Madly”, which sadly is not available on YouTube. You can hear an equally peppy version of it here, though.

SamandStephAren’t my brother and Stephany cute? You can see the detail 0f her dress and the elegant earrings she made in this picture. Once the wedding party and the kids were in place, my dad and I entered to Nina Simone singing “Feelin’ Good”, which you can hear here. That part was really, really fun. Dad and I took advantage of the dramatic entrance and sashayed our way up the aisle to where my sweet (and nervous) groom waited. At the end of the aisle, we paused, and Mom stepped up to take my other arm. My brother asked “Who supports this woman in her decision to marry this man?”, and my parents answered “we do”. My dad attempted to kiss my cheek and instead kissed my glasses. I think I kissed his shoulder because it was in front of me! We had a mutual giggle before I took my groom’s hand, and we moved on with the ceremony.

Sam then gave a welcoming mini-homily, which was really beautiful. At that moment, holding my groom’s hands, looking into his face, I felt perfectly calm, alert, and certain. It was glorious.

Next, we read poems to each other. Our idea was to each choose a poem the other would love that also communicated something in particular about how we felt about each other. He chose Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII, and I chose e.e. cummings’ I carry your heart. Both of us had paper copies in our hands to read from. He had pockets in his jacket to put the paper in and take it out of, but I did not, so I ended up handing poor Stephany my bouquet and my paper. She already had the branch from our Ring Dude and her own bouquet in her hands. Of course, she juggled it all masterfully. At least, I assume so. I was a little distracted.

Then came vows and rings. We said traditional vows that mixed Protestant and Quaker wording. Before exchanging rings, though, each of us spoke a few sentences to each other, just simple, powerful words from the heart.

Next, my wonderful sister-in-law Stephany sang Bette Midler’s The Rose. While she sang, my groom and I planted a seed together. We stepped back on either side of a small table with a container of dirt, two spoons, a cup of water, small seeds, and a tall goblet to do the planting in.

Ceremony #2We wanted to do something symbolic of unity, but we weren’t excited by the unity candle idea or any others that we ran across. Planting a seed together fell in perfectly with the song that Steph sang. One idea followed the other. For awhile, we had in mind to ask her to sing “BlackBird” (by The Beatles), which includes the words “take these broken wings and learn to fly…all your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free”. If you’re wondering if it crossed my mind that we might have set a poor bird’s broken wing together, you’ll be pleased to know it did not. (Too many ethical quandaries…) Planting the seed together fit beautifully into the ceremony.

ceremony 1After Steph finished singing, we joined hands again and Dad stepped forward to pray over us. As a pastor himself, not officiating must have felt strange to him, but I insisted that he be able to just enjoy his role as Father of the Bride, which he did quite well. His prayer was beautifully moving.

Ceremony #4Then, Sam pronounced us as husband and wife!

So there you have it. 🙂 And now to the business of life together. What a relief.

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We Got Married, Part 3

I left off with the tulle saga. Once she had the fabric measured and cut, Mom sewed the panels onto bias tape. That way she could gather the fabric just right, and we would be able to very simply attach it to the canopy using velcro. (A genius idea, frankly. Mom did an incredible job staying up until all hours of the night, shoe-maker’s- elves-style, making sure that the fabric would hang correctly.)

The now deceased Teddy, laying as close as he could get to the tulle without being on it while Mom prepped it for gathering.

The now deceased Teddy, laying as close as he could get to the tulle without being on it while Mom prepped it for gathering.

Mom hanging silvery fabric.

Mom hanging silvery fabric.

Marilyn making tulle poofs.

Marilyn making tulle poofs.

Mom and Steph and I were committed to keeping everything low stress. That meant that if we forgot about something or a particular task was causing trouble, we let it go and that was that. I have to reiterate here that my attitude when it comes to weddings is and has always been pretty skittish. The whole business intimidates me. So, it wasn’t going to hurt my sensibilities one bit if we didn’t have a certain flower or if everyone was in different colors that clashed or whatever. This is useful for the bride with small amount of days and dollars to bring to the wedding table because it means she can be flexible. Flexibility is good, but I really did need all the help and support and kind-but-firm looks Mom gave me! (She’s good at those.)

Two days before the ceremony, Steph and Mom and I went to a beautiful Tea Room in Oregon City. The whole thing was so elegant and sweet. I thought of it as my induction into The Wives Club.

IMG_6296IMG_6295While we enjoyed our tea and cucumber sandwiches, we also were able to browse through shelves of knick knacks and tchotckes. Steph and her eagle eye spotted the perfect guest book, just sitting there on the shelf, waiting for us. It’s more scrapbook than guestbook, which has been ideal for collecting memories from the honeymoon and such. There were more details that I had no idea I was even forgetting. I can’t even remember them all right now, but due to the extraordinary talents of the women in my family (and their propensity for befriending women like them), I don’t feel at all like anything was even missing.

Before I get to the ceremony, a word about our clothing! Steph was my Matron of Honor and bridesmaids all rolled into one person, so we had to need to worry about finding matching dresses. My only request was that she find a dress that she felt beautiful in that had black lace incorporated into it somehow. Mom had similar instructions, except her dress would be burgundy. The two of them went shopping together with my nephew and managed to find a gorgeous dress for Stephany that was priced down from more than $100.00 to less than $30. This would be surprising, except that this sort of miraculous bargain-finding is Stephany’s modus operandi. (Don’t go thrift shopping without her. Seriously.) Mom wasn’t able to find a dress she liked on that trip, so she and Steph hunted online and found a burgundy dress worth taking a chance on that could be delivered quickly. That’s always a risk, but it could not have paid off more for Mom. Her dress fit her perfectly and looked so elegant! I made Mom a necklace to match, and Steph made herself some lovely, slinky black earrings.

StephMomMy dress came from SimplyBe, a British clothing company that had a line of affordable but lovely wedding dress options. My dress cost around $100, which is a fantastic deal for a quality garment! It was also a risk that had to be delivered quickly, but Mom and I figured that we could commit and make alterations if we needed to. The alternative was to try to find something in person, which would have put us too far over budget. Happily, it was very close to perfect when it arrived.

I added a simple brooch to the dress at the bust line, and Mom shortened it so I wouldn’t trip on myself going down the aisle. My veil came from Etsy, specifically the shop Bella Bridal Veils. It arrived beautifully packaged in a timely fashion (since it came from nearby Seattle) and was really well made. You really can’t beat Etsy for wedding options, frankly. So many talented artists and crafters!

The sweetest wedding accessory that I had was a pair of shoes lent to me by my friend, Heather Mcculley. Cream colored satin kitten heels with vines and flowers embroidery. The perfect pair! I was proud to wear them.

As for the groom, he wore a charcoal gray suit (which he already had) with a matching red bowtie and vest. Steph, Mom and I went to pick up his vest and bow tie after our visit to the Tea Room and had to choose between two different options. The salesman, a very smart and crisply dressed man who was very tall and alert, laid both choices on the counter so I could handle each and make my choice. Once the three of us agreed on which red was more appropriate, we called him back over so I could ask about pocket squares. “I-” he said, tilting his head down so his king-of-menswear eyes could laser into my soul, “am very much in favor of the pocket square.” Then he darted away to fetch the right color.  Case closed, ladies.

My brother wore a suit and his Chuck Taylor’s. My nephew wore an adorable vest and tie combination and shoes that matched his Papa’s. They looked so cute with matching footwear! I also loved the silliness of it. Good not to have too much formality.

IsaiahANDKatieWedding_0114The next post (and final wedding post) will be about the ceremony!

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We Got Married, Part 2

IsaiahANDKatieWedding_0175And now to the details! We had a little bit of a challenge to face; there would be a small amount of money to work with and even less time for planning. (And it is worth pointing out now that I am not sure our scenario would really work for anyone else. It was unique, to say the least. So, don’t go taking notes! Just enjoy the story.) Both The Hub and I are grad students.

Weddings are hellacious. HELLACIOUS. I tried to do enough research in the brief time I had to know what I needed without getting sucked into the Great Machine of Endless Wedding Detail Manufacture. Given the potential for doom, I am still utterly flabbergasted by how wonderfully balanced and romantic the whole thing turned out to be.

The biggest challenge was to find a location that would essentially cost nothing. (Having a pack of ministers in the family is handy for all sorts of reasons.) My father offered his church, which is a very nice facility. Since we knew that there would be a very small amount of people attending, using the sanctuary didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It would require more decorations and would make things less than intimate, due to its size. What we decided on instead was to use another room in the church whose space we could better control. My Mom offered up a canopy whose frame proved to be useful in doing just that. My Mom, Steph (my sister-in-law) and I sketched out loosely what we had in mind, then made a trip to the fabric store.

By the time that trip was over, not only had we apparently dodged a snow storm, but we discovered that when it comes to hunting down the best deal for buying mass quantities of tulle, the three of us are coupon BEASTS. (Seriously, JoAnn fabrics had to practically give us those heaps of tulle!) After much complicated mid-aisle computations, Mom and Steph arrived at a yardage requirement to cover three sides of the canopy. (I stayed out of that swirl of numbers, trust me.) The idea was that once we had hard numbers to work with, we could tweak what kind of fabric we used where and what effect we wanted.


It wasn’t really until we made that trip that a real image of the canopy all decked out started to take shape in my mind. Once that kicked in, with the benefit of the formidable combined creativity of the Stuckey Female Collective, ideas really started flying. We settled on a light, flowy, silvery satiny fabric for the base of the back drop, followed by cascading strings of lights, topped off with a layer of silver tulle that practically RAINED GLITTER anytime anyone breathed nearby. All of us, including the Goth girl behind the counter who cut fabric, were covered in glitter.

With the “help” of my ever-precocious nephew, my (then) fiancee, Mom and Steph and I did a trial run 5 days before the wedding. Steph kept the many layers of tulle separate while Mom cut the panels at the appropriate length. The (now) Hub and I hung lights. My nephew, who somehow acquired his grandpa’s tape measure, “helped” by pulling it out as far as it would go, then dancing madly around it as the tape measure snapped back and spun on the carpet.

So, we had a clear plan in mind. But what we didn’t know we were missing was what I now call The Magical Marilyn factor. (Marilyn is a friend of my parents who does all kinds of great things. She works as a florist and does all kinds of wedding and decorating stuff. She is also an incredibly sweet woman with a very creative family.) With Marilyn’s help, we added more lights, fresh flowers, elegant table cloths and dishes for using during the reception.

I’ll continue with more details in Wedding Post #3.