A Much Bigger Mental Challenge Than I Expected

As I finished the last rows on the scarf I made for Dan for Christmas, I realized with a jolt that I haven’t made a scarf for MYSELF in a very, very long time. I used to crochet scarves a lot. Because crochet is so mindnumbingly relaxing. And because while I’m not the word’s best crocheter, I sure have mastered the long, narrow rectangle. Anyway. I looked back in the archives and discovered that I was right, and I haven’t made myself a scarf in four years. (Unless you count the only thing I ever made from the Happy Hooker book, which I don’t, not really.)

So it was past time to make myself a scarf. I decided it should be aqua and red, partly because it’s an awesome combination, and partly because I have a red winter coat and I have a brand new turquoise down vest waiting impatiently in my closet for the weather to get warmer and all this damn snow to melt. I’m nothing if not practical, people.

January 18, 2010

And as I polled the universe about how to arrange my stripes, a challenge emerged. My own mother dared me to crochet my scarf in a completely random pattern. I should toss my carefully randomized graph-paper rendering. And ignore mathematical sequences like Fibonacci numbers, or the random stripe generator. No, she dared me to just wing it. Because I think the thought of me struggling over what counts as really random made her giggle. Friends advised me to drink copiously while working. And I learned that I’m not the only one who feels a little creepy-crawly when thinking about a scarf whose ends don’t mirror each other.

Is my brain really that inherently ordered? (I’m of course thinking back to that fateful personality test we took at that librarian workshop. You know, the one where I was deemed to be the gold personality – the rule-following, order-loving, organized one. The geeky, stick-in-the-mud, no-fun-for-you one! Not the creative, emotional, sensitive one! Or the logical, questioning, scientific one! And surely not the outgoing, party-lovin’, loud one.)

random stripe scarf is ready for its closeup

Crocheting the scarf turned out to be quite the mental challenge. With each new stripe, my brain started whirring. “Okay, the red stripe you just finished was two rows. I did a blue stripe with two rows before that one. Am I putting in a pattern of two-row stripes here? Am I using red enough? Maybe I need a really, really big blue section here instead. And after that a short blue row with some longer red ones. No! Short red ones. No! One long red one and one short blue one and then a short red one and a short blue one. No! That’s a pattern!”


my brain horrifies even me sometimes

After I measured out to just past where I thought the middle should go, I decided it would be a good idea to count the rows of each color, just to make sure I wasn’t using way too much of one color or the other. So I counted the rows at the point where the above picture was taken.

And to my utter HORROR, there were EXACTLY 50 rows of red and 50 rows of aqua. And I DIDN’T DO IT ON PURPOSE. I was trying to be random! My brain IS that inherently organized?

I’m so embarrassed.

February 17, 2010

But I kept going, and at the very end counted the rows again to make sure I’d end up with the same number of rows of each color. I suppose that’s against the spirit of the project, but even I have my limits.

ready for its closeup

In the end, I’m pretty happy with the result. Is it a little TOO overly long? Yes. Does it need some breaking in thanks to the cheap yarn? Yes, especially compared to the pashmina style scarves I’m used to. Am I totally psyched with the random-ness of the stripes? Hell yes. Will I embark on another “random” project soon? Probably not, no. And that’s okay with me.


#13: Finish those damn cross stitches for my mom already!

For her birthday in 2006, I made my mom a small square cross stitch. It was an Elizabethan knot garden and I got it from a book of traditional cross stitch motifs that I bought when I first became obsessed with the immediacy of cross stitch as a hobby. Of course, that small cross stitch took significantly more time than I ever expected, but it turned out so cool and my mom was really happy with it.

Elizabethan Knot Garden, 2006

I surprised her in 2007 by making another Elizabethan knot garden and revealing that it would be a trilogy, and very soon.

Elizabethan Knot Garden, 2007

And then I sort of got tired of working on such intense, detailed stitching projects (compared to my usual fare!). But I wanted to finish the set, especially after my parents redecorated their bedroom and the colors worked perfectly with the little cross stitched gardens. So when I wrote my list of things to do while I was 27 in the summer of 2008, I made finishing (okay, starting and THEN finishing) the last garden #17.

And it just didn’t happen. My mom eventually stopped asking about it, and I felt bad.

So when I put the same task on my list of things to do while I’m 28 this past summer, I really meant it. I mean, cursing on my list? GASP. But secretly, I started working on it. And I finished it and succeeded in not taking or posting any photos of the finished project so as not to reveal the surprise.

Elizabethan Knot Garden, 2009

And my mom was surprised, and super happy, and she didn’t even make any comments about how it took three years to get all three. And now they live happily on her dresser, and even though they’re deceptively difficult to get a crisp photo of, they look pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

January 21, 2010

Goldilocks and the Three Camera Bags

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Elizabeth. She liked to take pictures and started collecting a surprising amount of gear. Pretty soon, she realized that she needed something to carry all of this crap around! So she bought a Crumpler 4 Million Dollar Home.

4 million dollar home

And that bag was really perfect for a really long time. It kept her camera safe. But then she started collecting even more cameras and lenses. “Now this bag is too small!” she said.

So Elizabeth decided that she needed a bigger camera bag, and was given a 6 Million Dollar Home for Christmas last year.

6 million dollar Home

This bag held so much stuff! Look at all of that stuff! That’s a big bag! Except it got so HEAVY with all of that stuff. “I hate to say it,” said Elizabeth, “but this bag is just TOO BIG!”

5 million dollar home

So she finally took the advice of her friends and ordered a 5 Million Dollar Home. It appeared on her doorstep a day and a half after she clicked “submit” which is just crazy talk. She opened the box and filled the new bag and declared, “This bag is just right!”

The End.

Third Time's the Charm

I just got back from the gym and I’m sweaty and my face is beet red in a decidedly unpretty way. But I’m full of all of those good vibes I always hear people talking about when it comes to exercise.  This morning’s run was my last run in week 9 of the Couch to 5k program. And week 9 is the last week. So that means I have now officially COMPLETED Couch to 5k. Well, sort of.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not entirely trying to knock this accomplishment, because for me, sticking with this for nine weeks is a big deal. This is not the first time I’ve attempted Couch to 5k. Well, frankly, it’s not the first time I’ve come up with a New! Perfect! Plan! for how I’m really going to get in shape for real this time! I swear! Let’s not mention my brief and wallet-destroying stint with that personal trainer last fall. Or when I was totally going to pull off that 30 Day Shred thing that the entire interweb was obsessed with. So I’m really freaking proud of myself that I started it, I stuck with it, even though I absolutely, 100% hate going to the gym and I hate how sweaty I get and I hate how my head is too enormously huge for any of those supposedly “no slip” headbands they sell for “active hairstyles!” and my bangs are always in my eyes, have I mentioned that I hate the gym? But! I have gone three times a week for NINE WHOLE WEEKS and I’m so impressed with myself.

Of course, the reason I’m qualifying my success here is that I run too slowly, so even though I have completed the nine week program and can now run for 30 minutes without stopping (even though it’s a bit of a colossal mental struggle every time, my body is completely capable of rising to the challenge), 30 minutes at the speed I’ve got the treadmill set is more like 2.6 or 2.75 miles, not 3.1. So that’s my next goal: either ratchet up the speed, or just run slowly but longer until I am really running three miles without stopping.

But still! Can you believe it? I can’t. The last time I was able to do this, I was 14 and miserable on the field hockey team. This is much, much better. Just be happy you’re not sitting next to me. Sweating is gross.

Hello, October

Hello, new photo project. Hello, another attempt at writing more. Not that the two are necessarily connected, but… here we are. I don’t take photos very often when I don’t have a Project to make me do it. I suppose I should feel bad about that, but I’ve admitted that I have a tendency to be very, very lazy. And so if I want to get better at photography, or at writing, or even just get to a point where I’m not a little sad that I don’t do either more often, I have to force myself to do so. And that’s okay.

In other news, I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich last night that was made with blackberry jam, and it took me back in time to gourmet toast breakfasts with my grandparents. I’ll have to tell you about it someday.

Discovered While Sorting Through Dusty Boxes (In Anticipation of Moving Next Week)

  • Yoda and Ewok pez dispensers
  • Lenses (just lenses) from the glasses I broke at least five years ago
  • A compass. No, not that kind. The kind you use in geometry. It stabbed me.
  • The lava lamp that was my most prized birthday gift when I was 14? 15? That I don’t necessarily want but feel guilty getting rid of.
  • Awkward college student ID to match the awkward high school student ID I found last time I moved.
  • 35mm film camera with film in it; 3 pictures taken who even knows when?
  • 12 floppy disks, all labeled with just my name and a number. Helpful!
  • The shower curtain we had in our bathroom in college. (Why?)
  • Massive key chain collection
  • Three sets of caps and gowns. (Again, I saved them because it feels wrong to throw them away; but why on earth would I ever need them?)
  • Light purple barrettes with my name on them.

ELO: Elaborate Lasers, Orchestrated

ELO Laser Light Experience

On Saturday night, a bunch of us headed out to a planetarium at a local community college (who knew?) to see a regular planetarium show followed by a laser light show. Nerdery, ahoy! I don’t know what it is, but I adore planetariums. And it was like a double plus bonus, seeing as how learning new constellations was TOTALLY on my 27 Things To Do When I’m 27 list. So anyway, yay! The planetarium! After the “winter skies” show, we were ferried out of the planetarium, and then back in for the laser light show. While we were looking for directions earlier that afternoon, Dan and I discovered that not only was it a laser light show, but one set to the music of ELO. Now, I’ve heard of ELO in my general fondness for classic rock, and I like some of their songs, but as we listened to the few songs Dan had, I realized that this had the potential for sheer awesomeness.

The others weren’t so big on ELO, and not all of them had even heard of them before. But the lasers! It was somehow awesome and cheesy at the same time. I was partly fascinated by the new digital projection system in the planetarium (they had that old star projector in the middle of the dome at first, but only to show us how they don’t have to use it anymore! Because of the new and awesome digital projection system! OMG!), and partly astounded by the actual setup of the laser show, in that most of the laser pictures were obviously hand-drawn by the Laserist himself. Like he sat there with the digital laser-pointer-style device and drew the outline of a globe. And a lady playing a cello. And a lady with huge boobs. And some mountains. And a guitar! Woah!

lasers and stars circling wildly to the tune of ELO

So yeah. It was kickass. And really, really, really hokey at the very same time. The music, though? I don’t know how I don’t already have all of ELO’s albums. I adored it and have had the songs stuck in my head since about 9pm on Saturday night. My mind, it has been blown.

PS. Don’t tell Bill, the Staff Astronomer/Laserist, that I was taking photos during the laser show. It’s totally not allowed.

Confessions Two

(Confessions One)

  • I let itunes’ Genius feature make a mix cd for me this weekend. This makes me feel like a complete failure, given how much time and effort I put into making my own mixes from scratch. The worst part? It’s a really, really good mix.
  • Sometimes, I text while I’m driving. Even though I’m fully aware how foolish this is.
  • I’ve had to put a Target ban into place on myself. This is because of days like today, when I went in for sponges and left having spent $30 on Halloween socks, sponges, birthday cards, batteries, a soda, and other socks.
  • I am COMPLETELY not used to this long hair thing.
  • In fact, I seem to have a strange mental impression of myself in ponytails, because while I know lots of people who look adorable with their hair in a ponytail, for some reason, when it’s me, ponytails are only reserved for when I’m home by myself. Or at the gym. Not for going out or going to work. Don’t ask me to explain how ridiculous this is. I can’t.
  • When I have to get rid of a paper jam in a printer or copy machine, it makes me REALLY happy when I fix it.
  • I bought these awesome tall brown boots but have never worn them because I don’t know what to wear them WITH. Or maybe it’s that I wear skirts so very rarely that now I feel weird when I do.
  • Turns out? There ARE other people out there who are susceptible to the magic of baseball. This is a very good thing, indeed.

Note to Former Selves

A few weeks ago, in a fit of craziness, I decided to re-read all of my journals since 1995. (Okay, truthfully, it was after I got my copy of Cringe, a truly wonderful collection of people’s teenage diaries, abandoned love letters, etc, in the mail.) This is not something I would really recommend, unless you’re fully prepared to be embarrassed and moody about things you had totally forgotten. If MY journals were ever going to be published as an essay collection (while I’m certain the universe would be endlessly amused, I ASSURE you I could not handle the embarrassment of that idea), it would have to be called “Elizabeth: This Is Your Life…. In Boys”. Because apparently I have a tendency to use my journals to write ALL ABOUT nearly every crush I have had since the age of 14.

Watching my handwriting become smaller and smaller and TINY and then legible again over the past thirteen years was entertaining, at least.

But in all seriousness, my observations about my former selves were amusing and difficult at the same time. I wish I could go back to my high school self and tell her that making lists of “guys I’d totally date….. if they asked!!!!” was sort of futile. And that eye contact? Doesn’t mean he likes her back. (It astounds me just how often I chronicled making eye contact with a boy in the hallway, utterly convinced that he noticed me and must LIKE ME BACK NOW OMG…) And that integrating random capital letters into her handwriting is really funny to go back and see now. And that it’s really not the end of the world if she writes her journal entries in the incorrect color from her four-color pen.

I didn’t write very much during college, but oh, I was so SAD in college, and that fact has completely escaped most of my college memories. (This is a good thing, because a lot of good stuff happened then, too.) College was when I perfected my ability to overanalyze conversations, reading into words and gestures and being TOTALLY convinced that he liked me for real this time. (I seem to have spent a lot of time liking boys who never liked me back, all the while collecting microscopic bits of evidence that they did.) Several of the college-era entries are not funny to re-read, just plain difficult. Certain things really did a number on my confidence, my self-image, my SELF, and obviously I’m past them now, but it’s harder than you’d think to read all about how you were shattered and thought it was all your fault when you know SO MUCH BETTER now.

There are several times in my life that I am so glad that I documented, though, like my meticulous retelling of the entirety of senior week in college. At the request of several friends, I may post (edited) versions of those entries here, because those were incredibly heady times, full of emotion and craziness and lots of beer and very little sleep and so many details I had completely forgotten.

Mostly, though, it was an interesting exercise to re-read what I wrote. I’d forgotten just how it pretty much made my life in 1996 when I got my bottom braces off (you better believe that was one half journal page full of just those words, “I GOT MY BOTTOM BRACES OFF!!!!” and a drawing of my mouth with sparkly, non-metal covered teeth, utilizing ALL FOUR colors of that four-color pen.. that may warrant actual photographic documentation now that I think of it), and how very proud I was of the articles I wrote for the sports section of the college newspaper (one of the things that I now wish I hadn’t given up so easily, as much as I know why I did it at the time…), and how much of a fucking superstar I am at reading into things (and how that hasn’t changed very much at ALL, ahem) and how very confused I was about What To Do With My Life for so long (not that I’m claiming to have it all figured out now) and how I was convinced that I was completely undateable after college. I guess it’s weird to type these words, but the whole experience sort of made me realize that maybe I’ve actually grown up a bit. Imagine that!