Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Norma Rae, I ain't

Well, the strike is over, if it ever really began. (Not that I've gotten paid; I haven't.) It is important to realize that this blog is more than just my online vehicle for quilting humor. It is also my journal, my therapy, and the place where all my angsty blatherings go when my husband isn't around to listen and talk me down from whatever mental precipice I have momentarily climbed. ("Yes, honey, I'm sure that George Clooney deserved the Golden Globe more than Jeff Bridges and I absolutely agree that his latest girlfriend looks like a money-grubbing, man-eating 'hoor'—but is that really any reason to eat that entire box of Entenmann's chocolate doughnut holes?")

Sometimes, coming here and writing about how INDIGNANT I am, and how I will NOT TAKE THIS KIND OF ABUSE, over something that doesn't necessarily warrant quite that many capital letters, is just another form of eating an entire box of doughnut holes.

In this economy, I am grateful to have a job. I am grateful that the job I have allows me to work from home, part-time. I am grateful that, even if we spend a week eating ramen noodles that we HAVE ramen noodles to eat. And I am extremely grateful that, if this job falls through or I decide to leave it, that it only means belt-tightening and more careful accounting, not homelessness.

Having said that, my husband and I spent as much time as we could over the weekend discussing the possibility of me leaving my job, whether or not the pay situation resolves. Once when I left a bad job, David reminded me of all the times he had walked away from employment, feeling that he had other paths to take and I always supported him. And every time he did it, he ended up someplace better, and now he is in a career he loves.

The only real reason I have for leaving this job is that I feel I am on the verge of something. I feel like the career I've always wanted is out there for me, just within my reach, but I can't pursue it full-on unless I can get rid of the things that are holding me back. Like gainful employment.

It feels so self-indulgent to talk about this, knowing how many people are hurting, out of work, out of money. But I spent so many years not doing the kind of work I'm good at, because I was too scared to try. I thought that I could never break in to writing or editing, and every year that went by that I still didn't pursue it seemed to add to that belief. Then, I walked away from a job that I hated and found one that I loved within a week, at a magazine, editing and writing.

I don't hate this job, but I have the same feeling now that I did then: that now is the time to leap.

I'll try to make this the end of my navel gazing. For now.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Stitcher on Strike

Well, my day just opened up in a way I was not at all expecting. As some of you know, when I am not wrangling kids or writing about my crappy sewing skills, I am the assistant editor of a local magazine. It is a job I do part-time, from home, and it nets me just enough money to pay for daycare for my little one and some extra for fabric and high-fat, low-fiber snacks. It keeps my mind nimble and gives me a socially acceptable way to correct other people's grammar.

It has drawbacks, of course, one being that I have to be available one day each month to proof the issue when it comes back from the designers. The problem with this is that though there may be a target date and time for this event to occur, it never quite works out that way. Perhaps we miss deadline by a day, or are even early, and this will cause the proof to come back off schedule. But no matter when it arrives, I have to be ready to sit down with it for 5 or 6 hours and find every mistake possible. And every month, without fail, I have managed to do this. I have hired extra babysitters and involved friends and had my husband take off work, and I have NEVER missed a proof day.

And, I'm just going to go ahead and say this, because it's MY BLOG, dammit: I am the best writer they have, and likely the best editor they have ever had. They are constantly thanking me for my excellent work and for my "dedication" to the magazine. They luurrrrve me.

When I started working for them, the terms of my contract were that I would be paid monthly, and that checks would go out on the 1st of each month. About halfway through the year, as the recession really started to take its toll, they told me and all the other staff that paychecks would have to start going out on the 15th instead. Ad payments were coming in more slowly, and so they were finding they had more money in the coffers mid-month than at the beginning. I understood that, and had no problem with it.

Occasionally, I would find that checks weren't mailed until the 17th, and since our mail system here is slow, that would mean an extra 4 or 5 days without daycare money, but still I was patient and understanding. Until today.

This morning I checked our bank account to discover that we had only $94 to our name. Today is payday for David, but he neglected to tell me that his first paycheck from his new job would come in the mail and not through direct deposit. I had a $54 check from Cafe Press (thanks y'all!) that I could deposit, and that would ensure today's daycare payment woudn't bounce, but then we'd be pretty much shit out of luck for the weekend until his check arrived. But none of this should have been an issue because I should have been paid by now.

So, one week after checks were to have been mailed, I emailed my bosses to say, Hey, guys, what's up? Gee, you know, my check still isn't here, so maybe it got lost in the mail. Do you think you could put a stop on that and cut me another and I'll come pick it up today? Thanks!

Turns out they haven't cut any checks yet for this month and aren't planning to until maybe next week IF money comes through. ("Sorry for the delay!")

Now, I'm not pissed that they haven't sent my money. That is annoying, yes, and inconvenient, sure. BUT TO NOT TELL ME? Were they hoping I just wouldn't notice? That I'm so flush with cash I wouldn't mind waiting an extra week or two? Does my "dedication" not warrant even a brief email?

I actually have a lot of patience, and I try very, very hard to be understanding and accommodating, but when I'm treated with that kind of disregard, it makes me want to throw things.

But, I'm always telling my 3-year-old, "It's okay to be mad, but it's not okay to throw forks at your sister." So, I'm not going to throw things.

I'm going on a mini-strike.

For the next few days, I'm not working. I'm going to sew. I'm going to write crazy humor articles for Quilter's Home and research other mags that accept humor pieces (Did you know that Smithsonian magazine has a humor page? And that apparently they pay, like, $1500 for one piece? And that everything I've read in there so far sucks? THAT is work I should be doing right now.)

One of the things I have been wanting to write about here is that I have a personal goal for this year, one which I haven't really mentioned to anyone out loud. I want to try to quit this job by the end of the year. I want to pursue my own writing and try to find out if I can match the monthly income I am making from the editing work through freelancing. If I can even get 2/3 of what I currently make, that would still work. I have enjoyed the editing work, and I think it has been good experience. But I also think that, within the next 12 months, the Bitchy Stitcher should become a free agent.

But, if I don't get paid, it could happen a lot sooner than that.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A project! A real project!

As the prospect of a very long long weekend loomed in front of me on Saturday morning, I realized that I had better stop all this nonsense and get a real, honest-to-god quilting project started. There were two reasons why this was of the utmost importance. One, because I was getting a migraine, and I have managed, over the last few months, to determine that my headaches are tied to my posture. When a migraine is brewing, I can be sure that I have been spending too much time with my head turned to the right. It's the way we have some of our furniture oriented with the television and the laptop, and though I can avoid sitting that way, it ends up happening if I am not vigilant about it. And the one activity that puts everything back in alignment and eases my pain - at least temporarily - is quilting. Whether it is the meditative aspect of the work or is just because I keep my head and shoulders more aligned when I am rotary cutting and stitching, or both, I don't know, but the dull throb in my head said, "Get thee to the cutting table," and I'm inclined to listen to the throb when it gets bossy like that.

And two, because a long weekend at home with my family means a long weekend AT HOME. I live with three of the laziest homebodies I have ever known; none of them would ever leave the house if they weren't compelled to, and usually the one compelling them is me. Saturday was absolutely beautiful, and Harper's friend Aidan was home, but I couldn't get her to go ask him to play because "he always wants to play outside." No! Quelle horreur!

But I knew one way to get Harper out of the house: a trip to the quilt shop where she would be allowed to pick out fabrics herself. I admit, it's a desperate move, but my only other choice was Chuck E. Cheese, so you can see my dilemma. I had a pattern that I'd been feeling wishy-washy about, but thought that since it uses a lot of fat quarters it would be a good project to let her in on and would give me something to do as well. This is the pattern:

Yep, another "Labyrinth." I guess I have a thing for mystical mazes. That or David Bowie's package.

Ahem. ANYWAY. One of the things I totally forgot as I was showing her what we were going to do, is that Harper, my darling girl, is a literalist. If she has a coloring book of a well-known cartoon character, then we must color that character and all sub-characters exactly the way they are depicted on the cover or in the show. Velma can never, ever, ever wear a blue sweater. It must be orange, and it must be the right orange. If you should perhaps be in a coloring mood yourself, and you ask her for permission to color in one of her books, she will narrow her little eyes at you and through clenched teeth ask, "Are you going to do it right?" Yes ma'am.

So, if we have, say, a quilt pattern, and there is a picture of the quilt, then we must - MUST - make our quilt exactly like the picture. There is no room for wild hares, flights of fancy, or any other freedom of thought. She's like a little brainwashed plebe from a dystopian novel.

We did our best to find 30 batik fat quarters that were exactly like the ones in the picture, though by the end I was pushing her to just "try" to pick ones that were pretty, that she just liked for themselves, instead of adhering like gum to the picture, and she stuck out her little lip and said, "This isn't turning out the way I thought it would." Sigh. Okay, sweetie. You can hold on to that big old stick up your butt. I love you no matter what.

I'm still unsure of how much I like the pattern, but it's great for my kind of quilting - which is to say, sporadic. I can cut up two fat quarters and make one block in roughly a day with the time I can generally wrest away from my kids, and that lets me feel like I am accomplishing something. Harper gets to make sure I am "doing it right" and that of course makes her feel like she is accomplishing something.

And this is what we have accomplished so far:

Not bad for a lazy, crappy quilter and her anal retentive daughter!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Well, hump.

Thank you all so, so much for all your good wishes, positive thoughts, and prayers. We are still waiting, as the neurosurgeons have yet to put their collective noggins together and say what is happening next. That may be tomorrow.

Now, if you recall, a dear friend of mine had surgery for a brain tumor over a year ago, and what really freaked me out about her story - when she FINALLY chose to tell me - was that she had been diagnosed at the beginning of the summer and chose - let me say that again, louder: CHOSE - to wait until September to have the surgery to remove it. Not only that, but she told almost no one about it until, like, the day before they were gonna cut her head open.

It floors me that the words "brain tumor" don't also mean "emergency," "stat," "of COURSE the doctor will see you now, the rest of his patients can go fuck themselves," or "IMMEDIATE SURGERY". I do realize that open-head surgery is a big deal, but that's just it: it seems like SUCH a big deal that there ought to be medical professionals fluttering about you at every moment, working 24-7 to get the process moving because, hey, BRAIN TUMOR. Precious grey matter is being squooshed! That can't wait!

Well, apparently it can. Humph.

(Oh, that reminds me. My boss, for some reason, and this has only been in the last few weeks, has been typing the word "Humph" in her emails and comments, whenever she is feeling peeved, except she spells it "hump." So her emails to me are all...humpy. So she'll be going along, saying "This sales rep is really bugging me today. Hump." Or, "I don't like the intro to this article. Too dry. Hump." And I'm at my computer going, HA HA YOU SAID DRY HUMP! I have no plans to illuminate her; it's too entertaining. It's way better than when we were participating in a local event called the P.R. Bazaar and she kept calling it the P.R. Bizarre.)

While I was in my state of panic on Monday, my editor, Jake Finch, from Quilter's Home tried to call. And if there's ANY phone call I should be answering it's hers, but I just adore Jake and I knew that I would start blubbering if I heard her voice, so I let it go to voice mail and sent her an email in response.

(OH! Did I ever tell you about the MONTHLY COLUMN HEADING? If I did, forgive me, but Jake wants my pieces for QH to have their own Bitchy Stitcher column heading! As in "regular feature"!!!! This made me so excited, that I really wished that there had been someone who had been all "you'll never make it" so I could go SUCK IT, HATERS but everyone's been really supportive, so I'll just go "woo!")

So Jake writes me back, and says many lovely and wonderful things, some involving checks, others involving extended deadlines, and the one thing that lingers with me all day is this: "Your copy is ALWAYS so clean when it comes in it's not a problem to wait a couple more days." Not the part about waiting a couple of days. The part about my copy being clean.

Because I am such a fucking nerd, that the one thing that manages to lift my spirits when I am in personal turmoil is someone noticing that that I don't write error-filled copy.

So when I am on my deathbed, and the family is asking if this paper they are waving in front of my fading eyes is my last will and testament, they had better mention how CLEAN THE COPY is if they want me to pass over in peace and contentment. Otherwise I will haunt them for eternity by sticking a wet finger in their ear whenever they try to write "irregardless."


Monday, January 11, 2010

Sorry, y'all. I got no humor in me today.

Last week was clearly too calm and uneventful, because I awoke this morning to find an email from my dad and a text message from my daycare provider. I read the text message first, and therein discovered that she had taken her 17-year-old son to the emergency room because he seemed to have the stomach flu for a few days, but instead of getting better, it was getting worse. She and I are like the Texty Sisters - we text each other all the time and have long text conversations and we bond and as a a result she seems more likely to say "don't worry about it" if I'm late to pick up Devon rather than charging me two bucks a minute like she's supposed to. I just like having someone to send text messages to, other than my husband.

So while we're having one of our cell phone-based confabs, I read the email from my dad. In it, he has forwarded an email from my brother, who has written to tell my parents that yesterday at 6 a.m, he awoke to find himself on the floor of his bathroom; the tubing that runs to the toilet was broken and spraying water; he had a nasty bump on his head, a cut on his foot, and had bitten his tongue. When he was able to gather himself and talk to his wife, she noticed that his face looked "odd" and they proceeded to the emergency room. Two CT scans and an MRI later, it appears that my brother has two brain tumors.

Both the doctors at the hospital and the neurosurgeon he contacted today said that there is a possibility that what they were seeing on the scans was bleeding from the blow to his head that happened when he blacked out. But it begs the question: why did he black out - and quite possibly have a seizure - in the first place? There will apparently be a gathering of several neuros this Thursday, who will all confer to try to come to a diagnosis. A biopsy is probably imminent. Scans to see if there are tumors anywhere else. I can't speculate beyond that.

If you believe that there is any power in prayer or positive thinking, I'd be much obliged if you spent a little bit of it on my big brother. He's a really good guy, funny as hell, too. And I'm not ready to lose him.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mommy, why are you on the floor taking a picture of Dora's bathroom?

A couple people have asked me about the jelly roll block I made, and though "a couple" doesn't exactly constitute overwhelming demand, I thought I'd briefly explain how it's made. I'm sure there is a name for this block and that everyone on earth already knows how to do it, but let's all just be patient for the sake of those two people who don't. (My first how-to book will be called Short Bus Quilting).

Since the block is made from jelly rolls, and jelly rolls are 2.5 inches wide, the first square is a 2.5-inch...well, square. For the second color, you would cut one piece at the same size (a 2.5-inch square) and one more piece 2 inches longer (4.5 inches). Then, for each subsequent color, you cut one the same as the longest side you just sewed before, and another 2 inches longer than that. Ad infinitum, if you're into that.

Since I did seven colors, I ended up with a big-ass block. How big? Pretty damn big. Hmmm...let's se if we can find something to put next to it. To, you know, give it scale. Oh, hey, thanks kids. That's perfect.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why it's a good idea to have a manual camera around the house

Yesterday, before I was called to come rescue my daughter from the perils of Throat Loogies, I grabbed a couple plastic bins that were on sale at the grocery store. I have been intending to work on organizing my sewing area (and yes, the loosely phrased "intending to work on" is very, very accurate here) and have been thinking that perhaps I should start organizing my scraps. Seeing as how I have several metric tons, even though I've only made 4 complete quilts, plus a few more quilt tops, in my short career as a quilter.

My first task was to use one of the bins for all the weird jelly rolls I got on eBay so long ago (they turned into this quilt and then the rest of them sat in the bottom of my scrap box until yesterday). I had already pulled out some of them over the weekend to make this:

But brightly colored strips of fabric all in one handy bin only serves to turn my children into magpies. Last night, the bin was closed.

This morning:

I will, no doubt, be finding these for weeks.

But, hey, guess what? I was taking a picture of my shelves:

to contrast with the shelves I am going to steal from my husband becasue he has not utilized them to my satisfaction:

and I thought I should probably move that big, ugly box:

Hey! What's that on the floor?

I'm guessing it was trying to hide until I had cleaned my damn house.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oh, boogers

This was supposed to be a picture-heavy post all about how I have jumped from my Hello Betty nine patches back to the pinwheel quilt and then over to an ill-advised project to use up a bunch of old jelly rolls that I bought on eBay in some place mats, which may end up being a quilt instead, 'cause the block I made was pretty cute...BUT I LOST MY CAMERA. I downloaded our Christmas pictures off of it, and haven't seen it since. I do also have a Pentax digital SLR, but I'd have to GO UPSTAIRS and CARRY IT DOWN. Then I'd have to TAKE OFF THE LENS CAP, which I would then lose, and there'd be that panicky search for it, which would end hours later when it would fall out of my bra when my husband decided to get all frisky while I was brushing my teeth. And I just do not have the patience for that today, since I had only been home from dropping off my kids for one hour and fifteen minutes, when the school nurse called to tell me Harper was having trouble swallowing and I better come get her before she goes into anaphylactic shock! So I rush over and take her to the doctor, and she seems perfectly fine the whole time, and the doctor looks her over and asks her a bunch of questions...and determines that she has post-nasal drip.

Post-nasal drip. I gave up my day for backwards snot.

A Personal Plea

Would the kind and patient person who emailed me AGES ago, wanting the Labyrinth quilt pattern, please email me again? I have lost your email and want to send you the pattern via USPS.

Real post later today!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Oh, right. This is a quilting blog.

I have been forcing my husband to watch the children on his own for a few hours each day since Thursday in order to get some work done and also so I can sew, dammit. I reminded him that this little quilt blog venture here has actually generated a small amount of bi-monthly income, and thus it would be unfortunate if I never actually got around to doing any quilting, since that's what I'm supposed to be writing about. He couldn't argue with that, though he looked like he was working up to it, and so I spent my afternoon yesterday hunched over my sewing table, cutting up a Moda layer cake into 2.5-inch squares while the girls climbed on him and made him play keep-away with a pink feather boa.

Back in late November (I think. I'm too lazy to actually go back and look), Erin of Confounded By Quilting (and how great a name for a blog is that?) was giving away a layer cake to the person who could best teach her how to tie a quilter's knot. And, as you know, I love any reason to write up a tutorial. Here's what I wrote:

How to Tie A Quilter’s Knot

1. Thread needle.

2. Thread needle again after pulling thread out while looking around for drink.

3. Trim thread several times, since the damn thing won’t go through the hole anymore, and you’ve licked it so much it’s starting to glisten.

4. Ask husband, boyfriend, or pizza delivery person to thread needle for you.

5. Holding needle between thumb and forefinger, hold one end of thread (left end if needle is in your left hand)between the fingers and palm of that hand.

6. Get tired and decide to watch TV instead.

7. Pick needle back up and try holding it again. Figure you just need to keep that thread out of the way and tape it to your arm instead.

8. Take other end of thread and make a loop that is longer than the needle, holding the end of the loop in between the same fingers that are holding the needle.

9. Drop everything and curse the needle and thread to hell for all eternity.

10. Once you have it all back in place, take up some of the thread from your loop and wrap it around your needle three times.

11. Holding the thread taut with your right hand, inch your left fingers (the ones holding the needle) up over the loops you have wound around the needle, until you can begin to pull the needle up through your fingers and through the loops you just made.

12. Keep pulling thread, while keeping your fingers together, until you feel the knot tighten into a little ball.

13. If instead you feel a rats nest that is roughly the size of your fist, complete steps 1-12 again after drinking several strong cocktails.

Good luck!

And, whaddya know, she picked me as the winner! So, I have for the past few weeks been the proud owner of a Moda Hello, Betty! layer cake, a lovely bundle of fabrics in teal, red and brown which has been sitting on my sewing table, mocking me for my lack of gumption.

So, Friday morning, I'm on the computer, and I decide to check in with amandajean and see if she's posted anything new, and what do I read?


I know, me too.

I could not believe it. This woman is like the queen of quilt bloggers, the woman who inspired a nation to sew and post. Ask just about anyone who quilts and blogs about it what inspired her to start blogging,and Crazy Mom Quilts will definitely be in the list. She's on every blogroll I've ever seen. AND SHE"S QUITTING.

Apparently, the blog was a huge amount of work for her, and boy, oh, boy do I wish that I could say that. But considering that I tend to post once a week these days, that ain't gonna be my excuse anytime too soon. But, to bring this all back around to where I started, I decided that, in honor of the woman who taught me the joys of white sashing, I would finally do a nine-patch quilt. With the layer cake.

And, of course, I hate them. I'm going to rip them apart and try something more coordinated than just nine random pieces slapped together. Maybe blocks in each color group, combined with white/ecru for contrast?

Or, maybe it will end up in a ziplock along with my pinwheels. That would suck. Clearly, I will not be taking up amandajean's mantle any time too soon. But that's okay. I doubt she's headed for a career based on dropping f-bombs and joking about drunken quilting, so I'd say we're both safe.

Friday, January 1, 2010

You Aught-a Know

Noodles just posted something I found rather compelling, and she in turn got the idea from a friend who had done it as an email to her loved ones, and I decided that I would do the same for my first post of 2010. I do tend to get maudlin rather than snarky at times like these, so just bear with me here, as I list my 10 greatest achievements of the last decade, in rough chronological order:

1. Created and published my own literary magazine, BrickStreet: A Journal of the Arts. A friend and I put it together ourselves, and I learned how to use Quark Xpress in order to do the layout myself. The experience made #3 possible.

2. Gave birth to my amazing daughter, Harper.

3. Quit my soul-sucking job in the retail optical biz, and, one week later, landed my dream job as assistant editor of a local magazine.

4. Gave birth to my beautiful little demon, Devon.

5. Had the stupid idea to start my own jewelry business from home, which ultimately didn't work out so well, BUT I created and built my own website, even though I had no idea what I was doing and no prior experience. More than anything, I am proud that I carried the project through to completion and did it entirely on my own.

6. Taught myself to quilt.

7. Started this blog.

8. Landed an even better job as assistant editor of another local magazine, for twice the pay and even better experience.

9. Gained roughly 60 pounds, and lost nearly 30 of them in the last year and a half. (I'm still pretty fat, though, and all that CHEESE added at least 2 pounds back)

10. Got published in Quilter's Home magazine, a gig that looks like steady work for as long as I come up with stuff for them to publish and there is a Quilter's Home magazine to be published in. I once complained to the current co-Editor-In-Chief, Jake Finch, about having to provide a picture, and her response was, "Dammit, woman! I am trying to make you famous!" Who would have thought ten years ago that there would be anybody interested in making me famous, or that it would come via a blog about my lousy sewing?

And, really, who would have thought ten years ago that any of these things would happen? The Aughts have been a hell of a ride. I can't wait to see what the next decade has in store for all of us.