Art & Crafts, Mindfulness, Travel

My First Foray into Art Abandonment

I’m starting an eleven-day trip today. In anticipation of this I made little art cards from an old pack of playing cards (an idea from Nichole Rae’s book Art Journal, Art Journey), with the intention of letting them go along the way. “Art abandonment” was developed by Michael deMeng. The idea is that you make some art, attach a note to it explaining that it is up for grabs, and leave it in a public place for someone else to find. I wanted to try it because I liked the idea of scattering a little art during my travels and maybe, just maybe, adding a tiny bright spot to another person’s day.

Here’s a little sampling:

If you happen to find one of these guys or have any questions about them, please feel free to comment below.

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Art Journaling, Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health

Welcome, Fear

2017-06-07 Welcome, Fear dianaklein.comFear means that things are getting juicy.  It means that you are challenging the boundaries of what you thought was possible.  Fear can be a friend, a harbinger of good things to come.  Last night the fear rolled through my body and I welcomed it to tea.  I know I don’t need to be afraid of it anymore.

Mindfulness, Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health

Taking a Nice and Easy Day

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Yesterday was a busy day.

So was the day before.

And the day before that.

Life has been piling up. Mostly it’s been good things.  It’s been me taking steps in the direction of my goals.  It’s been me investing in my family and my community.  It’s also taking care of my ailing cat (who is completely recovered now, by the way!).  And unexpectedly having to take my car to the garage.  It’s been a lot.  And, somehow, there always seems to be more.  One more thing I must do today, this week, this lifetime—just so that everything will turn out the way I want it to.  Do you hear God laughing at me right now?  Yeah, me too.

I still have several things on my to-do list for this week, but I know I’m not going to get to all of them, so I am making accommodations. For one thing, this was not the blog post I had planned for this week.  I was going to make a video and write about making art every day.  I was excited about it, but it’s too much.  A part of me says, Hey, just push through. It’s just one more thing.  Pour another cup of coffee.  You can do it!  And that part of me is right.  I probably could do it, but at the cost of becoming more energy indebted and less, well, me.  Does that make sense?  Have you  noticed that when you overextend yourself for too long that you turn into an ugly, ungrateful, wretched, slobbering monster?

Or is that just me?

Anyway, the biggest problem with my monster is that she invariably makes things worse. Every little molehill becomes Mt. Everest.  Every tiny slight becomes a gaping wound.  Every mistake becomes life-threatening.  This attitude perpetuates a cycle of unhappiness and, ultimately, under-productiveness.

A few months ago I read a blog post on Kris Carr’s website titled The Myth of Finding Your Purpose. She says it’s her most popular post of all time and I can understand why.  In it, she begs the question, “What if finding your purpose is about . . . nurturing yourself?”  At first, I felt a little perplexed by this.  How can that be a purpose? Isn’t that just something that happens when you pursue and achieve your true calling(s)?  But when I thought about it, I realized that my callings—literally, the things that call to me—are simply things I do in service to my purpose.  And my purpose is to be the best—the healthiest and happiest and kindest—version possible of this particular conglomeration of cells and spirit that my parents happened to name Diana.  My purpose is to spend as little time in the monster skin as possible.

So today, I am taking a nice and easy day. Not a vacation day.  Not a sick day.  I thought about both of these options.  I thought about not blogging, but I realized this is one of the things I do that feeds my spirit, and I didn’t want to rob myself of that.  A nice and easy day means being honest with myself about what I can and cannot accomplish.  It means not expecting too much.  It means reminding myself that even though all those things on my list seem imperative, probably none of them are actually life and death  It means going slowly, taking the most important thing first, and letting it take however long it takes.  It means remembering to breathe, to release my shoulders from their defensive stance next to my ears, and to enjoy the sunshine flowing through the window.

 

Mindfulness, Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health, Writing & Reading

How and Why I Give Myself a Little Credit

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Where am I losing energy? I ask myself this question a lot.  I want to know what is draining me, what is pulling me down.  I want to minimize those influences.  Sometimes these things are, partially or completely, beyond my control—doctor’s appointments, conflicts with loved ones, stores with disturbing fumes.  In these cases, I can take deep breaths.  I can take it slowly.  I can limit my exposure to necessary, but distressing situations.  But, in the end, I really just have to shrug my shoulders and go through them (Squelch! Squerch!  See last week’s post about this.)

I’ve been realizing recently though, that there is at least one way in which I am losing energy that is completely within my control. It’s the way that I talk to myself.  I know, this is not news.  Some 2500 years ago, the Buddha was warning folks that “what we think, we become”.  But I’m speaking very specifically here about my attitude toward how I am approaching any given task.  I have noticed that very often I am telling myself that I am not doing a good enough job.  The song goes a little something like this: It’s taking me too long to shop. I am paying too much for this box of granola bars.  Why can’t I write faster?  Why can’t I always make the perfect egg?  I’m not learning fast enough.  I should be making better progress.  I can’t believe I spent so much time playing games on my iPad today.  I should have been nicer to that stranger.  I should be getting more done.  I should have gone to bed earlier . . .

You get the idea. If I let it, my dissatisfaction with myself becomes a constant drone behind all my other thoughts.  It’s not fun.  And it’s been kicking my ass.  It’s been me, kicking my own ass, draining my energy, allowing my power to squirt out every which way.  Not cool.

So what’s the antidote? Well, of course, there is the wonderful practice of mindfulness in which I catch myself having these destructive thoughts and counteract them by expressing self-compassion—maybe with a hand on my heart and an internal assurance of, “It’s okay, Sweetie.”  If there are any casual observers of my behavior out there in my town, they can vouch for the fact that I have my hand on my heart, a lot.  It works. But, what if I forget?  What if my mindfulness is not working very well, and I get to the end of the day, and find that not only have I been disapproving of myself all day, but I didn’t even notice I was doing it?  Well, that’s when I get out my gold stars.  You think I’m joking.  I’m not.  gold-stars-learning-to-give-myself-credit-dianaklein-comI now have several exciting sheets of congratulatory stickers (like the ones used by kindergarten teachers) and, as I record the events of the day in my journal, I think of at least one thing I accomplished, write it down, and I plop one of those stickers down next to it.  Sometimes it’s for doing something I was scared to do—like expressing myself honestly even though I feared retribution.  But the bar is not always that high.  Sometimes I give myself a gold star for vacuuming.  Sometimes it’s for self-care, like say, napping.  You’re laughing right now.  I get it, but the truth is that if you’re like me, you do a whole bunch of things during any given day for which you give yourself no credit, whatsoever.  Why?  Because “You’re supposed to have done that.  You don’t get a gold star for brushing your teeth, or feeding your family, or hugging your kids when you’re an adult.  That’s ridiculous.” finished-productivity-stuff-learning-to-give-myself-credit-dianaklein-com I agree, one hundred percent—but ONLY, if you are asking for that gold star from someone else.  I can’t expect other people to get excited about my taking good care of myself.  I can’t expect them to reward me.  But when I acknowledge to myself the things that I am doing—even the stuff that I “should” be doing as a matter of course—I shift my self-attitude from a person who’s failing all the time, to someone who could maybe do some things better, but who is also doing a heck of a lot of things absolutely right.  And that chick, definitely has more energy than Perpetually Failing Woman.  Plus, she’s a lot more fun to be around.

P.S. If you like the opening image, you may want to follow me on Instagram or Facebook. I post new art images daily.

Nature & Spirituality, Sickness & Health, Writing & Reading

Coping Advice from a Children’s Book

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One of my favorite picture books of all time is We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.  I was introduced to it one summer, almost twenty years ago, when I worked with a class of autistic children as a teaching assistant.  This book was a particular favorite among the kids, and I read it aloud over and over and over.  It’s a good thing for me that I fell in love with it.

It drew me in with its repetitive and rhythmic nature. And I enjoyed playfully acting out the story.  Each section begins with the same chorus: We’re going on a bear hunt. We’re going to catch a big one.  What a beautiful day! We’re not scared.

It then goes on as the bear-hunting family is confronted with one or another natural element—grass, a river, a snowstorm—that they must conquer in order to continue their hunt. And as they face each obstacle the family declares: We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it.  Oh, no!  We’ve got to go through it!

And so they proceed, relating the sounds they make going through each experience. Amid the grass it is: Swishy swashy! Swish swashy! Swishy swashy! In the river, it’s: Splash splosh! Splash splosh! Splash splosh!

My favorite though, is the mud the Thick, oozy mud. I like to think about it as I determine to tackle complications and struggles in my life—the small things, like going to the dentist; the big things, like submitting my novel; and the heartrending things, like my cat acting like she’s on death’s door (though, thankfully, she seems to be improving.)

I could wring my hands and rend my clothing at any of these things, but instead, I try to think about the mud. We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it.  Oh, no!  We’ve got to go through it!  Reciting these words to myself helps me smile—however slightly.  It makes me feel that things are a little less wrought with difficulty than they may immediately seem.  Unpleasant though the situation may be, in some way or another, it’s a beautiful day! and the rest is all just mud to be gotten through.  One step at a time.

Squelch, squerch! Squelch, squerch!  Squelch, squerch!

 

 

 

CFS, Reading, Sickness & Health, Writing & Reading

Coming Home to My Body

curiously-smiling-attentively-coming-home-to-my-body-dianaklein-comMy mother and I are walking together this morning. It’s already apparent that it’s a tough one for both of us, but we still do our daily check-ins.  “My legs are hurting a lot,” she tells me.  She knows that the pain in my legs have been a merciless for several days now, so she adds, “Maybe your legs said something to mine, and it spread.”

She’s making a joke. I know this.  But this morning, I am not in the mood.

Despite the pre-dawn darkness she senses my chagrin. “Not you,” she assures me, “your legs!”

“My legs are me,” I explain.

This is a fairly new admission for me. I have spent many, many years dissociating from my body, talking about it in the third person, distaining its weakness.

There’s an interview with Toni Morrison from about a year and a half ago during which, because of chronic pain, she talks about her body in a similar way. “I did so much for you, body, why aren’t you helping me now, when I need you?  I was so nice to you.”  When asked if making peace with her body was hard, she confirms “I do feel like I’m under attack.”

It’s easy to feel this way: My body is failing me. My body hates me.  I hate my body.  I felt this way for a long time.  Oh, I paid lip service in yoga classes to “listening to my body”, but my subconscious was really thinking: Listen to my body? Are you kidding me?  That bitch doesn’t know shit!

Then, in my mid-twenties, a hypnotherapist told me to “Be in your body. You want your body to be there for you, so you need to be there for it.”  I was a little confused.  What does she mean, be in my body? I am in my body, aren’t I?  But then I started thinking about The Robber Bride, a novel by Margaret Attwood I’d read some years earlier.  In it, one of the female characters describes being repeatedly molested as a child, and that her response to this was to leave her body, so that she wouldn’t feel everything that was happening to her so intensely.  This is one of the things I love about novels—they teach so much.  They teach you things you don’t know you need to know.  I had thought, at the time, that Attwood was speaking metaphorically or at the very least, metaphysically.  People don’t really leave their bodies, and if they do, it happens very infrequently.  It took a few years for me to realize that Attwood and the hypnotherapist had it right.  We do leave our bodies.  We hover around them because we have so much about which to think—or so much from which to escape.

My departure from my body was mostly because of the pain. I couldn’t understand why meditation teachers kept wanting me to scan my body.  I knew what my body felt like.  It hurt.  A lot.  I didn’t need to know anything more about it.  I didn’t want to know anything more about it.  I wanted to feel something different, something better.  So I took off, without realizing it, without meaning to, I just left.  It seemed better that way.

But it wasn’t. My retreat from pain was also a retreat from my life.  I became less connected to myself and to everything else.  How can you truly taste an orange if you’re not really there?  How can you taste any of the fruits of life, if you are constantly running away?  Though perhaps, I wasn’t experiencing as much pain, I also wasn’t there for myself.  I had less agency in my life, less ability to accomplish things because I was taking refuge in fantasy and a future that might never come.  Leaving can be okay for a while.  Sometimes we all need a break from reality, but I came to realize that for me, giving up the pain meant giving up everything.

And even then, the pain chases me. Without my attention, my body becomes tenser, harder, unforgiving.

I have taken to doing body scans again—nothing formal, usually it’s when I lie down to take a nap, and I often fall asleep before I finish. But I try to feel the full weight of my body falling into the bed.  I start at my feet, feeling them, expressing some appreciation for them.  I work up my body in this way.  Relaxing into the pain.  Filling the entire volume contained by my skin with my presence, flooding the space between my cells with my being.  Some months ago, without really thinking about it, I started telling myself: This is my body.  It seems kind of silly to remind myself of that and as anyone who has spent much time going to a Catholic church knows, those words can’t help but remind me of the mass.  It seems appropriate somehow, though—that here be an inherent holiness to those words.  That fully inhabiting one’s body could be a sacred act.

When I do this, the pain does not go away, but I feel more relaxed. I feel like my body and I are in this thing together.  We are not at odds.  We are not separate.  I believe, I know, that I am more than a body, but I am also this body.  This body is home.

The artwork for this post was inspired by the work Austin Kleon and Cindy Shepard. If you like it, you might want to check out their stuff, too.  Also, if you enjoyed this post as a whole, please consider sharing it.  🙂

Sickness & Health, Writing, Writing & Reading

The Wisdom of Narrowing

A few years ago at a Sheep and Wool Festival amid stalls of colorful yarns of all kinds, my mom and I stood there and agreed: weaving was off the table. At least for this lifetime, this was one fiber art we were going to forgo.  Though we both found looms and their products tantalizing, we knew that, for us, there simply wasn’t enough time for it.

I have made more decisions like these lately—especially as I have trying to pare down my belongings. I am not, by any means, a hoarder, but I have often had difficulty getting rid of a thing because of the fear that I might someday, in the vast unknowable future, need or want it.  Reading Marie “KonMari” Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up (like just about everyone else) earlier this year, gave me the impetus I needed to try again.  I liked the idea of not being weighted-down by objects and of surrounding myself only with things that, in her words, “spark joy”.  Did I follow KonMari’s method to the letter?  Uh, no.  But I did, almost three years after I moved, finally open every last box I had stowed in the garage and edited many crafting supplies and several books.

As I contemplated each piece, I again felt the familiar tug of anxiety at my chest. Am I being stupid getting rid of this? What if I want it later?  I don’t have a lot of money and it might be expensive to replace.  In these moments, I did not hold the item quietly and ask myself if it sparked joy as KonMarie would have had me do.  Quite frankly, I forgot all about that.  Instead, I thought about what I was giving up by holding onto any given item.

I, like all of us, have a limited amount of time on this planet. If I choose to do X, say make rag rugs from old fabric, that will take energy and time away from doing Y, say writing.  Is making rag rugs important enough to me to take time and energy away from writing.  Would it help me in any way?  Well, the answer for me is no.  Like weaving, rug making could only be considered a backup plan to the other things I am more passionate about in this life.  And, the problem with holding onto the fabric that would be perfect for rug making only keeps the possibility of doing it, however faintly, alive in my mind.  One could say, (and I have) okay, you don’t want to do it now, but maybe in the future . . .  So the idea gets still more life, a tiny trickle of energy gets siphoned off to maintain something that, in all likelihood, I am never going to do and, for which, I feel only a minor excitement for anyway.  I don’t know if there is any physical truth to my energy drain theory, but there is sociological research that indicates that people who commit fully to a goal are more motivated to fulfill that goal than those who have “backup plans.”  It makes sense, I mean, how committed to something can you be, if, somewhere in your mind, you are still entertaining other options?  Plus, I think most of us probably have enough anecdotal evidence that single-minded people tend to be the ones who get the most done.

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Narrowing one’s focus is effective in writing, too. When I was 15, at Oprah’s urging, I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved for the first time.  It was my initial foray into reading contemporary literature and, holy smokes, what an introduction.  Considered by many to be the best novel of the 20th century, its narrative about slavery and love is as brutal as it is beautiful.  I felt breathless as I discovered how amazing and powerful prose could be.  How a mere 95,000 words, strung together like a magical incantation, could change me so profoundly.  Shortly after reading Beloved, I saw an interview with Toni Morrison in which she explained that her purpose, in writing the novel, was to examine slavery in a way that she had not seen it done before.  So many books had tried to capture the immensity of the American slave trade, but she felt their scopes were too wide.  She decided to go narrow and go deep. By telling the stories of a few individuals with whom a reader could feel a sense of intimacy, she was able to convey the horror of slavery so much more poignantly than by rattling off numbers that, no matter how big and atrocious, had difficulty making it past the mind and into the heart.

Go narrow and go deep. I think of this when I am confronted by the huge swathes of possibilities presented to me each day.  When I open my email account and see a plethora of urgings to go in any number of different directions.  I can’t do it all, and trying to will likely mean that I end up doing nothing.  So often when we think of investing in our futures, it’s about obtaining something—classes, books, materials—which, in many ventures, is important.  But, for me, right now, narrowing my focus is the best form of self-investment.  As I say no to many things that are not quite right for me, I am making my yes to those things that are most significant to me that much stronger.

This is becoming my practice: I look at each item in my life—physical and psychological—and I ask myself, Is this what you want to spend your life on? It’s tough when it’s something that looks cool, when my anxiety flares up that maybe I’m missing something (which is ridiculous since we are always missing many things!).  But it’s wonderful when, for example, I am hugging my niece—her buoyant spirit flowing out to meet mine—and the answer is like a chorus of bells all tolling, “Yes!”

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with a friend. 🙂

 

CFS, Mindfulness, Sickness & Health, Writing, Writing & Reading

The Power of Small

I crashed last weekend—exploding pain, unforgiving tiredness, the works. It was particularly disappointing because I had been starting to feel like I was building up a head of steam—moving in the direction I wanted to go.  I had plans.  I had thoughts and ideas sprouting and multiplying.  There’s so much I want to do!  And then plop—the other shoe drops.  It happens to all of us—we feel energized to make exciting, positive change and something happens that we didn’t plan for or something reoccurs that we should have seen coming.  A fly gets in the ointment.  A wrench is thrown into the works.  Our best laid plans go so infuriatingly awry.

When this happens, my instinctive reaction is to do a post mortem: What happened? What did I do wrong?  What did I not do?  This picking apart usually takes place in the presence of my mother, who listens patiently and then says, “Or maybe it’s none of those things.  Maybe it’s just the cycle.  Maybe it’s just what’s happening now.”  At which point, I take a deep breath and grumble, “Yeah, maybe.”

Of course, she’s right. Most of what’s going on is beyond any sense of my control, and I just need to ride it out.  My struggle with it, however, has to do with my expectations.  They have a tendency to get away from me.  I do one thing and then want to, or feel I should, do more and more.  Some years ago, a member of my then writing group brought up the notion of setting a deceptively small goal.  I took to the idea and kept telling myself to “start small”.  However, in the hands (and mind) of a Type A personality, this mantra developed a major flaw.  I might be willing to start small, but all too soon, my mind says, Hey, we better put the pedal to the medal if we’re ever gonna get anywhere! Which, of course, devolves into a wild attempt to do more, which in turn tires, overwhelms, and frustrates me to the point where I am ready to throw in the towel.

start-small-snail-dianaklein-comIn light of this, my new motto is: Start small—and then keep going small until you get whatever the thing is you need to do done. It doesn’t quite trip off the tongue, but, when I think about it,  it is pretty much how I made it through college.  When completely cowed by the mountain of writing I needed to do and the soul-crushing fear of not being able to do it, I would start by opening a document, forcing myself to add one sentence (more if I could) and then, moving to the next paper, do the same.  I would rotate through all of my current projects in this fashion.  Write a line, switch, write a line, switch.  After I had a draft down, I could go back and check for cogency and fix any problems, but it was getting that first layer down that was the biggest challenge—which I overcame only by taking it piece by piece, sentence by sentence.  I still write this way when I am stuck.  I ask myself, What’s the next line? I don’t think about what will come after.  I only have to write one sentence.  And once that’s done.  I do it again.

It can be hard to commit to small steps like this because societal norms so often tell us that if you can’t have the thing you want by tomorrow, you’d best not pursue it at all or worse, it’s not worth having.  I mean, why even bother?  Many of us, when we decide to turn over a new leaf, want to jump in feet first. You see books on lifestyle makeovers and they are all about making wholesale changes to one’s life.  We tell ourselves, we will do everything according to this new code: eat better, sleep better, do yoga, meditate, be creative.  And we forget that our lives are still our lives.  I think people feel either: that they want to change everything all at once without regard to whatever else is going on in their lives or that they are too overwhelmed by their lives to make any changes at all.

do-the-thing-you-can-do-the-power-of-small-dianaklein-comThere is an alternative. Start small.  Do the thing you can do—this is advice I have given myself regularly over the past 20 years (when I haven’t been busy trying to outsmart myself).  If you can meditate for two minutes a day, then meditate for two minutes a day.  If you can eat more vegetables, but can’t eat less sugar, than eat more vegetables and don’t eat less sugar.  And, *this is key*, don’t let your mind sell you a bill of goods that you are somehow falling short!  The saying A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step is, perhaps, a cliché, and, of course, you do have to take all the succeeding steps after that first one if you want to get to your destination, but if you tell yourself that that first step is not, won’t ever be, enough, you will never take the second.

I have big goals. I don’t know if there are enough steps in this body to get me there, but I want to keep walking towards them.  I want to do the thing I can do, consistently, and be proud of each step, giving it the recognition it deserves, because, in a one million-step journey, step number 45,682 is no less important than number 999,999.  Without either, small, seemingly insignificant movement, you will never reach your goal.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing with a friend!

Art & Crafts

Confessions of an Overwhelmed Crafter

I think there has never been a better time in history to be a maker of art and crafts. There are so many glorious books and fascinating tutorials out there all just waiting to be salivated over.  Walking through my local arts and crafts supply store, I am bombarded with one exciting possibility after another.

And all of this is great, except for this balloon-popping truth: I can’t have it all. I can’t do it all.  At some point, I am going to have to choose.

Which can be tough. I think most crafters have been in this situation: they start a project with gusto, only to have it turn from something they were excited to begin, into a chore they had to finish . . . at some point.  Some people deal with this problem by simply junking the un-fun project and moving on.  I have done this, on occasion, but, for me, it’s even less fun to waste resources.  I know, some unfinished projects can be repurposed, but then that can turn into another uninspiring task.  In order to avoid all this, I’ve recently begun paying a lot more attention to how and what I’m feeling while I’m crafting, so that I can understand what I like and don’t like about a given process and subsequently choose projects that reflect those preferences.

countryside-softies-amy-adams-dianaklein-comFor example, I finally decided to sew a duck, based on a pattern from Amy Adams’ Country Side Softies.  This is one of many, many books I’ve bought because the ideas are so cool, and I just have to try them and then proceeded to spend many, many years . . . not trying them.  Anyway, as I began, I could feel the tension building inside of me, Is this really what I should be doing? Is this really what I want to be doing?  But as I started to just pay attention while I worked, I found myself relaxing.  I realized that what excited me were the fabrics, bringing together coordinating patterns and colors.  Also, I was really happy doing the embroidery, and admiring it as I stitched along.  I wasn’t super happy with the duck itself, though.  The beak was too long, and I felt like there was more I wanted to say artistically that couldn’t find a home on this little canvas. Alright, I thought, good to know.

Later in the day, feeling tired and bored, I began looking around for something else to work on, but nothing seemed to grab my fancy until I remembered an article by Linda Willis in the January/February 2015 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors about making an iPad pouch from a piece of embellished, raw-edged quilting. From my earlier run in with the duck, I knew that playing with different fabrics and embellishing with embroidery would be fun.  I was a little unsure, however, when it came to the matter of  raw edges.  I am the daughter of a master quilter, and raw edges (when a piece of fabric is topstitched, leaving its edges to fray at will) is something we just do not do, but it’s become a popular look in textile art (it also takes less time!), and I wanted to see how I felt about it.  So I went for it. But, instead of stitching the piece in straight lines on the sewing machine, as instructed by the article, I decided to hand quilt circles through the top layer, a felt middle layer, and down into the backing.  I quickly found out more things during this process: a) I needed greater overlap for fabric pieces than I had allowed for (oops!)and b) though the circles looked cool, sewing as directed would have minimized the fraying of the edges and made everything more secure.believe-pouch-pinning-dianaklein-com

believe-pouch-quilting-in-progress-dianaklein-com

Alright then, on to the embellishing! I sewed on a little rectangle bearing the word “Believe” in fabric marker, which I then outlined with backstitch.  Then I did a lot of embroidery and a little ribbon work to hide those pesky spaces where the fabric did not quite meet, further lock down the fabric, and just because it’s fun.  Once I got the purple ribbon and the gold embroidery floss on there, I realized that those are LSU’s colors which, given the fact that I live in Louisiana (and it’s football season), I see a lot of around here.  I decided to dampen down the school spirit with a few blue and silver beads and some sequins.  I think that helped quite a bit, though when I look at it, I still can’t help thinking Go Tigers!

Finally, I zigzagged the edges of the piece on the sewing machine and then sewed it together to form a pouch, complete with a Velcro closure. The finished product is pretty small.  I can just barely get some index cards into it.  And it’s not something that will stand up to a lot of wear and tear—partially because of the embroidery, but also because of the raw edges.  Yes, the jury on seaming is in for me: I suppose in some art pieces, raw would be better, but in general I prefer finished.  They are simply more durable—and neater.

There’s a lot I like about the pocket though: It reminds me again of how magical I think hand quilting is (even when the stitches are uneven). I love the way the blue thread pops off the lighter fabrics and melts away into the darker ones.  I love the texture created by the stitches—the small hills and valleys.  And I enjoy the feeling of quilting and embroidering—weaving a needle through fabric, pulling thread up and down, watching as the many small stitches add up to something so much more grand than the sum of their parts.believe-pouch-front-dianaklein-combelieve-pouch-dianaklein-combelieve-pouch-closure-dianaklein-combelieve-pouch-detail-dianaklein-com

And I love that the pouch itself makes me think of Rita, a friend who died some years ago. She made God’s pockets for an entire confirmation class one year.  They were unembellished fabric pouches meant to be a place to house notes about things a person wanted to hand over to God.  It’s a neat idea.  I’m not sure that’s what this is for, but I am happy to note that this pouch did not turn into something for me to finish.  It was something I got to watch evolve.

What about you? How do you decide what to craft? Do you ever get overwhelmed by all the choices out there?

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Nature & Spirituality, Prose Poetry, Sickness & Health

The Sighs of a Little Grey Cat

Sometimes, I think I live only for the sighs of my little grey cat.

I breathe solely for those moments when she creeps cautiously onto my tender abdomen as I lie on my bed, worn out and vulnerable.

And she discovers that the crevices in my body meld perfectly to her own. She finds that all boundaries between us are purely artificial.  Her fur, my clothes, our skins become completely permeable. She relaxes her muscles into mine, allowing her very essence to seep down into my being. Our blood vessels become a greater network, somehow effortlessly pumping through feline and human without care for the difference.

She feels all this and she knows that she is home. She knows that she is safe. And because of this, she exhales completely, allowing every, last, tiny cavity of her body to be emptied. She saves nothing. She holds back no secret store to guard against some future scarcity. She lets it all go. All that she needs, all that she will ever need is here in this moment, on my belly.

She tells me this with her sigh, and I cannot help but be moved and awed by her trust, her faith—in the whole of this kaleidoscope universe—and also in the subtle rising and falling of one human stomach.