Craft Conspiring

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hashtag, Life Adventures.

The Husband and I are learning - about our birthing options, how to shut off the gas in our new home, the exorbitant cost of window treatments, and most apropos to this moment, learning what happens when the rental lease you've broken doesn't stipulate terms for early release.  LESSON: In Colorado, if there are no terms, it's a legally binding contract.  Dun Dun Dun.

At this moment our 32-week-old unborn, Trux, and I are sitting on the floor of the VRBO trailer we rented soaking in the warmth coming out of an heater vent.  When we woke up this morning, the gas had been off for most of the night and the inside of our mobile home was around 42 degrees.  LESSON: Trailer resources need refueling and refilling every 24 hours or so.

Last Thursday through Sunday was a whirlwind.  We arranged to move out of our rental; packers came and loaded our stuff; movers moved our belongings to storage; we then slept on our guest mattress, which was covered in plastic in the middle of a canyon of boxes; arranged for cleaners and carpet cleaners to scrub the house down; completed hours of yard work with the help of handymen; and secured this VRBO trailer to live in for the week.  Now our closing is delayed and needless to say, I need to push back new house deliveries and set ups, and find somewhere else for us to stay another night.  LESSON: Don't plan on your plans.

And finally, I am sure I will look back on this sleeping arrangement fondly (we'll see), but the bed in our trailer is not equipped for the 8th month of pregnancy.  After night one, we moved the couch cushions under the mattress so my hips would stop hurting from laying on cardboard, or concrete, or particle board, or whatever it is that is supporting the futon of a mattress.  Nights two and three were spent tossing and turning (which is a relative phrase since turning over involves an odd, on-all-fours, groaning movement), so by night four, I splurged and bought a Leachco pillow to support this baby and all the other aches and pains.  The size of the pillow, though, takes up most of the is-it-really-even-full-sized mattress and so on my every-two-hour pee breaks throughout the night I shuffle to the end of the bed, use the restroom, then whip the pillow thing around, inevitably hitting the Husband, to move the contraption to its other side, and somehow crawl from the foot of the bed back into the pillow cocoon without ab muscles and core strength of any kind.  I write this not as a tale of woe inducing pity, but as a warning: pregnancy requires a large bed.  LESSON: Adapt quickly - months 8 and on are (so) uncomfortable.

In a few days, I am sure I'll come back to this and write how thankful I am for this moment and the adventure and all the other wonderful things happening, but for now, that much positivity makes me sick.  The leaves are turning though, so I think I'll try for some fresh air before diving into school work.

Lots of love,
Jo


Thursday, August 6, 2015

The One About the Baby.


“There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.” 
― Adrienne Rich

I've put off writing for various reasons over the last few months.  I think mainly, writing about uncharted territory and the vast amounts of gratitude I feel seem like insurmountable tasks; but I told myself I would try.  In many, many words and a few pictures (I anticipate) this is the Husband and my current journey of next-generation creating, of losing and loving and living, of fear and freedom, elastic waste bands in the midst of life (and pillows), and a journey that ends, but truly begins, around December 10th, 2015.  Read on if you have a trial of life to overcome or simply if there is room for hope in your day (or even, if there's not).  It is cliche, but we've created something out of what seemed to be …nothing.   This is our miracle.

"We may just need to get new friends," were my words after meeting up with three of my best childhood girlfriends, their significant others, and their children.  Three of their older children joined the playtime while three fetuses rested peacefully in all of their wombs.  If you're the couple without kids, regardless if you want them, my guess is you can relate.  I contributed to conversations about diapers, sleep habits, terrible twos, and number twos with small bits of laughter and attempts to involve any child in my proximity in riveting conversations about the nature of blue and red blocks, just to avoid eye contact with the moms that are my dear friends, but that now have departed on journeys of their own.  I was bitter, I was somewhat lost, I felt alone.

Infertility is selfish, mysterious, lonely, aggressive, silent, personal, fear-ridden, sad, monotonous, and many different adjectives for many different people, but it is also filled with a quiet, sometimes desperate, hope.  If you choose, infertility is also filled with doctor's appointments, various hormone treatments, invasive procedures, and lots of ultrasounds, not to mention a box where you drop off your dignity near the front door.   Over the years we were paired with doctors that cared, doctors who we met once that shuffled us through the back door, and on to nurses who feigned interest.  I sat atop countless exam tables feeling the whole process was unnatural, could be avoided, and that perhaps it was just not our purpose, let alone our time, to have children.  There are many factors that affect fertility, not the least of which is mental health, and needless to say, the Husband and I were dealing with what seemed like a forever ascending staircase.

After more deployments and life events in and out of our control, we took a break from treatments.  I went back to school, we moved, and the Husband found employment far more rewarding than previous experiences.  When we decided to try again, I read a host of books on the benefits of Eastern medicine and began acupuncture treatments, coupled with herbal supplements, a lack of drinking (gasp), and early-morning temperature readings.  We were going to do this on our own.  ...But still, no babies.

So when we gave in to Western medicine once again and were paired with a new doctor our friends praised, we also felt we were in a better state - healthier, happier, freer.  Our friends remarked, "This is exciting!  Now you know you'll eventually have a kid!"  But I still doubted.  As we talked through the first appointment relaying our journey to another new doctor, I sat just behind the Husband's right shoulder so he could not see my inability to keep my composure while the doctor spoke factually with a thick, endearing accent, nonchalantly handing me tissues to wipe away my frustration and anger.  Despite being in a better place, I didn't want this to be our journey, after all.

Let it be.

Fertility drugs are sometimes sent via first class mail in refrigerated boxes lined with pages of instructions, warnings, and needle disposal kits.  We popped ours in the vegetable drawer of our fridge and the Husband popped injections into my abdomen with the ease of his Army medic training.  I developed a belt of dot bruises, and we kept our chins high.  At this point, I took self-care to a new level and stopped anything that resembled a shock to my body (a conservative approach, yes, and also slightly crazy), did not let my feet get cold (which in Colorado last winter meant wearing three pairs of socks at all times), drank only room-temperature liquids, avoided alcohol, caffeine, and exercise (Joanna without a crutch and on hormones?  Hide.), quit Cross-fitting, and resembled a highly-vitamined, more on-the-verge-of-a-breakdown version of myself.  We went through a month of treatments.  I was convinced the treatments did not work.

On the morning we could test for pregnancy I cried before I took the test.  I limited myself from buying a caseload of pee sticks to use to test early.  That single test was nearly all I thought about for two weeks (the TWW anyone?), or I suppose I could say that test had always been something for which I thought of constantly since we decided to start trying (#TTC) over five years prior.  That test was either going to be the test, or just another.

That was it.  That damn stick.  That blessed stick.

I shook during the three minutes we waited for the results at 5:45 a.m. on a Tuesday, leaving the test on our bathroom counter while I crawled timidly back into bed, the entire time asking my husband if he could check, repeating that it wasn't positive, how could it be, I'd gotten my hopes up too high, I didn't feel pregnant, why would this have worked.  His calm presence stilled me.

And then.

I covered my mouth when I saw the results, then I covered my eyes, then I looked at the Husband still lying in bed, then I burst into tears.

Like any pregnancy, friends, family, strangers, doctors, and your mind for that matter, give you an onslaught of solicited and unsolicited advice.  Convinced this was still unreal despite the doctor's visits confirming the opposite and being released from the fertility clinic to a regular OB after a few months of monitoring, I spent the first trimester in a cocoon of nauseated worry wrapped in a prayer shawl my mom graciously gave me.  After pregnancy losses in the past, I'm sure I am not alone in this practice, but fear, fear became an entity - my friend and my enemy - my companion that created doubt, worry, and numbness.  I restricted myself from the internet message boards of hysterical, hormonal women going through something similar, binged on saltines, and paced in the worried space I created while watching record amounts of Colorado May rain fall outside.  The first trimester ended.

We bought a stroller off of Craiglist, were gifted two onesies after we shared the news with friends and family, purchased a pair of tiny Chucks for an iPhone photo op, found a Timbuk2 diaper bag on sale, and feel like that's enough for now.  I have Honey Almond Bath Salts, elastic waste bands, and two bins of cocoa butter I was also given that offer comfort and more external reminders of the changes to come, but otherwise, this journey is internal: filled with family tears from generations passing away to long conversations about names that we will not consider.  This journey in many ways is ours, but we're also fitting our feet into the bounty of footprints that have walked this path before, choosing which steps fit for comfort, stress-relief, parenting practices, to calm nerves, and for the general happiness of bringing another person into the world…and that is a sacred, crazy, hard-to-believe miracle.

Halfway through the 40 weeks we scheduled and rescheduled ultrasounds, switched doctors, and requested our new, awesome doc please please please guess the gender on a non-gender ultrasound.  We both held our breath thinking we would know best how to raise a boy, but knowing deep down the babe was probably a girl.  With 85% certainty I baked a reveal cake like all the other excited families on Pinterest, felt cliche, but was/am so excited, and we announced in person to my family and over text to a few friends, then waited for the official gender ultrasound to confirm the results.  Meanwhile, this beautiful little babe started to wiggle and dance, jerk and convulse, and gave us plenty of evening entertainment in which to revel.  Not to mention the fact that its nose and that of the husband's appear to be the exact same - and that makes my heart swell.

I am someone who does not relax easily, who wants to accomplish a lot all at once, and I am someone who needs constant reminders of how to stay in the moment, breath, and be grateful.  With this miracle though, it is easier.  Obviously there will be challenges and hard moments ahead, but today, these days, I get to be pregnant, and that makes me feel like the impossible is possible if only the right amount of effort, time, patience, diligence, support, and faith are dug up from the core of this earth and laid to rest on the heart.  

“Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free.” 

― Rumi

“The connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet.” 


It's a girl.

(Can't you see the Husband's nose? Swoon.)


All my love, 
Jo




Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Pillow for a Guy! for the Day of Dads.

Last month, a dear friend sent a custom order request for a Father's Day pillow for her husband, who also happens to be a dear friend (and they're new parents!), and the subject?  One of all of our favorite places on earth: Bishop, CA.  

This place - 



A lover of climbing, his BMW, and surfing (probably not in that order exactly), his wife asked that the pillow represent all of the above with a little bit of green included.  I was pretty intimidated feeling that a pillow made for a guy, especially a man as great as this guy, was a difficult hill to climb, but I do enjoy challenges.  

So the sketch was sent for approval...


And the pillow was created with his CA BMW toting a surfboard, the Sierra, some bouldering rocks, and as always, lots of love included.





To many more years of climbing, memories, Father's Days, and laughter.  Thanks for the honor, friends.  

Miss and love you,  
Jo


(P.S. I guess our climbing pics are on Dano's camera, but this will have to do. ;))


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Custom Order Recap: A Mother's Day, Rain-Inspired Delight

Hi, Hey, Hello!  It's been a while.  I hope it's been real.  I hope you celebrated your mom, or any important woman in your life, to the fullest of your capacities.  We had a three-day celebration for my mom here in CO and it was grand despite the snow.  Although! it continues through today as I woke up to my particularly wonderful mom having sent me a link to some fabulous adult coloring pages (which just means they're a little more complicated than those for the chilluns.)  I can't wait.

I was asked by a very kind, very thoughtful, and quite open-minded customer to embroider a pillow for Mother's Day for the client's mom.  Despite the final projects and papers I was wrapping up, the request included the sewing of a small dog, and if nothing else, that dog's face combined with the sentiment behind the pillow said, "Make me."



The client asked that the pillow include the dog and the mom, and after being sent a particularly charming picture of the companions walking in the rain, wearing matching raincoats, I was inspired.  

So I assembled, cut, sent the idea on for approval…


Then appliqu├ęd, embroidered, and well, fell in love with this little family from NorCal.







I hope it was a wonderful, memorable Mother's Day and a gift that will be cherished.  Thank you for the honor!

Love, 
Jo

P.S.  Keep the custom orders coming!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Back to Life

The class.  The class that I spent countless hours wondering how I would get through, keeping my head down so I didn't realize it was taking over my brain, is over.  It took approximately 3.56 months of full mental and time capacity to finish the doozy.  And finish it I did, in every way possible considering by the end of it I was over it x 100.  I was also over the 76 page project that put a bow on the whole thing. A bow is too pleasant a word for that piece.

And my other class is done, too!  So a brief respite I have despite having to study for a state exam coming up this Saturday, and I have a pillow to make!  A Mother's Day pillow, nonetheless.  It should be grand.

Taking off the shackles and letting my tightly wound muscles relax will take a few days, but it feels great to be somewhat free again - in mind and spirit.

I hope you are smiling and are filled with love and joy.

Cheers!
Jo

Friday, March 20, 2015

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Some thoughts.

I may be slightly manic right now.  I feel like mania is my only explanation for feeling like there is a light, or warmth, or just plain happiness radiating from my chest.  Pure mania.

Or maybe it's that the sun is shining in that Spring brightness way and I got a glimpse of leaf buds fighting their way from their branches yesterday.

Perhaps it's that the Husband and I had a conversation about loving our dog crazily and unconditionally and that was freeing considering I usually think I'm just spoiling him into some unrealistic form of life.

Most likely it's attributable to the brain bending conversations I have had with a couple dear friends about changing my state of mind, trying to follow some of the criteria in this 21 Days of Happiness log, and just generally letting things be.  Let it be, let it be, let it be.

I guess I don't really care about the reason.  I'm just overjoyed that the school assignments aren't weighing me down, that sorting through my closet for spring gets me a little too excited, and that life is swinging to and fro, and I get to live it.

I volunteer and observe in five classrooms at four schools throughout the week.  I think that adds up to hanging around with over 120 kiddos.  And in my classroom experiences now and previously, there are always those few students that tug at my heartstrings in subtle ways.  Don't get me wrong, they all do, but there are a few that I seem to understand a little bit better than others.  I love the differences each bring to assignments, the way one science experiment can be traditional for one student, and a lesson in the lotion-water plants create on Mars for another.  I can't make this stuff up.  And I love that.

Maybe what I'm trying to get at is I, for this brief moment, am realizing that I don't have to go searching for happiness, I can find it right here.  It's a philosophical and constant practice, yes, but it's possible.

To the hunt,
Jo

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Almost Sweet, Sweet Spring

I just received an email stating my Etsy listings were getting ready to expire.  So soon?   I won't bore you and myself with what-if's and should-of's, but let's just say that the business of making pillows is not conducive to the school work, classroom observations, and school volunteering that are currently cluttering my hours to the brim.  Like a full cookie jar, but instead of cookies overflowing the lid, it's educational reform policy, assessment interventions, and the sociological backward-ness of bilingual education.  I'm very grateful to be back in school, but cookies sound so easy at the moment.

The goals for which I was sure I would stick - two pillows a month? sure! - have fallen behind, which is neither to the left nor right, but somewhere beneath my consciousness.  Silly material sitting in that glorious bin in my office, what are you doing there?

Resting.  Peacefully resting before the flurry of creation.

I wrote a classmate that I was floating blissfully drunk and ignorant in a sea of chaotic confusion at the moment.  Time to put on the proverbial sunscreen, if you know what I mean.  That's alright, the wavering equilibrium is good for my muscles, challenging for my brain, and learning to better handle stress is an exercise that would be awesome for me if I actually did that.  Ha.  "This too shall pass," after all.

So for now!  The pillows are stuck in the vibrant and beautiful air of imagination.  I will renew the Etsy listings, and get some more work done in the future.  I have seven weeks left in this one particularly challenging class.  Until then, I release you, pillows.  I'll see you soon.   And who knows, maybe letting go is the catalyst I need to get going again!?  (CHEERS TO CATALYSTS.)

Happy almost Spring.  Boy, does that make me joy-filled.

To the upcoming greener pastures,
Jo

P.S.  Have you seen this app!?  Paper 53.  It's remarkable.  I used it to create some faux watercolored eucalyptus trees, for example.  They remind me of elephant feet.



P.S.S.  I just did some smile-ups.  :D

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Because literacy is important.

And this took me forever and ever.  *Slow claps.*

On to the next class(es).

Happy March!
Jo

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow Sounds

The heater kicked on, otherwise, silence.  As discussed with my second graders this last week, rain goes plop, snow says nothing.

I'm at the tale end of a week spent in school survival mode trying to get through final projects and a paper before tomorrow when my sister will be here for a much anticipated visit.  It's also her birthday today.  For her, I am forever grateful.

I just took some ingredients out of the freezer to thaw for dinner, told the husband, and nearly killed him with passive aggressive glaring when he requested I stop by the grocery store for an additional ingredient that would make the dinner that much better.

Operating near capacity makes me realize how very much I limit the size of my capacity with my own expectations and brain.  My sore calf muscles are case in point.  I recently did a WOD, during which my mind was saying, "Stop, no you can do this.  Try harder.  OK.  Enough.  Wait.  Breath.  Stop.  Come on!  Enough." After, I realized how much harder I could have pushed myself…a metaphor for my life.

To lull myself to sleep after some long days, I am continuing on a journey with Cheryl Strayed and Wild, diving into the mess of literature she read, currently this, and generally getting lost in the life it breaths.  Lost to found?  My kind of subject matter, including the beautiful, relevant, and poignant poetry of Adrienne Rich.  I write all of the last bit with high recommendations.

“No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.” 

“I touch you knowing we weren't born tomorrow,
and somehow, each of us will help the other live,
and somewhere, each of us must help the other die.” 

“To write as if your life depended on it; 
to write across the chalkboard, 
putting up there in public the words you have dredged; 
sieved up in dreams, from behind screen memories, out of silence-- 
words you have dreaded and needed in order to know you exist.” 

I am in a place without much forward planning.  I know the next pillow will come, but today needs tackling.

I hope you're tackling yours, too.

Happiest of Birthdays, Katie.

Seize these days,
Jo

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Love Story

….just in time for the day of hearts.

Lots of love sent from my Colorado home to this Connecticut couple celebrating anniversary number 46.  The pillow depicts where they met, a city where they lived, and where they now reside.  They also love gardening.  I don't know them, but I kind of love them.

This was the sketch I received from a lovely, repeat client.  A partner in crafting crime?  I think so.


And the sketch turned into a pillow.




Some love sewn with loop, stem, cross, and running stitches. 


Closed buttonhole and back stitches... 


And lots of lazy daisy flower stitches with french button knots.





I will try not to say 'love' again…but it feels so good.

Happiest of Valentine weeks to you,
Jo  




Thursday, February 5, 2015

Custom Order Delight.

It sounds like ice cream, is almost as fun, and may be just about as enjoyable, minus the calories.  These pillows won't go straight to your hips, nope, they'll go straight to your visual memory and physical embrace as a keepsake of joy instead.   At least that's my goal.  

I had the honor of being asked to make a commemorative pillow for a couple's upcoming engagement.  The criteria were: camping, travel, Minneapolis, and an engagement ring.

So, the sketch was sent for approval...


And love was embroidered amongst colors and patterns…


Including the Minneapolis skyline, a lake (sans giant mosquitos),


The ring… 


And a tent!  (I told the Husband I'd like to keep this one for us.)






It certainly helped that the client was so very easy to work with and had great ideas, herself.

Cheers to new beginnings and past memories.  Thank you for the privilege!  

To the month of Love, 
Jo

P.S.  Have an idea in mind?  Want to memorialize your recent road trip?  Or celebrate an upcoming milestone?  Send them to thecraftconspiracy@gmail.com!  Sketches are free, ideas are welcome, and the end products, well hopefully they're irreplaceably unique.  Available as a custom order on Etsy, soon.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sky Perspective.

Sometimes I ask my kiddos what color the sky was yesterday.  It's amazing how many have no idea.  It's amazing that most of the time I don't either.

I've been feeling overwhelmed, busy, and consumed lately.  I've been in need of perspective.  It is reassuring the difference made by remembering to take off the proverbial blinders.

Look up.


It's a great big world, after all.

Soar, 
Jo

Monday, February 2, 2015

Happy February, 2015

Another new start.  Another month in the books.  A lot for which to give thanks.  I am ready for this Month of Lovin'.

Shoot all those arrows you have stored in your being and just see what happens.  I dare you.


Love,
Jo

(Working a couple custom orders!  Updates coming sooooon.)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hi, From My Office

It is* a busy week filled with classroom observations, papers, assignments, discussion forums, and little else, less Friends episodes on Netflix.  21 minute breaks with laughter, '90s reminiscing, and Rachel's hair?  Duh.  
*Replace with: 'has been,' 'will be,' 'will remain for the foreseeable future'...

I walked into my office on this Saturday morning to find two mugs of tea, plus the mug I was holding in my hands, and thought that just maybe, my productivity could be quantified by the number of leftover tea mugs I leave sitting around the house.  "I need a break...I'll make tea," says my brain every, oh, ten minutes.


Despite my longing for the coffee shop where I studied last year and minus the drive, this place is a close second.  It's also rather apropos.  


There's the below constant distraction at home to deal with, as well.  

"Walk me.  Hi.  What are you doing.  Stop.  Hi.  Walk me."

On this Saturday, I will most likely accumulate more mugs, type more words, make more tea, and try not to watch Friends, so that I can enjoy the rest of the weekend however the Husband and I deem fit (which includes starting another custom pillow order!).  Free me from the shackles of school work, productivity…please.


Have a lovely weekend, you out there. 

& drink all the tea, 
Jo

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Custom Pillow Lovin' & Great Friends.

This is Moe.


I received an email from my dear friend requesting a pillow be made for he and his wonderful girlfriend's upcoming anniversary.  He may win the award for the greatest custom order freedom in history, but this is my first custom order.  He still wins.  Also, they're geneticists.  I make pillows.

This is the cabin we stayed in during a fantastically rare and exceptionally fantastic weekend at the Russian River over a year ago.  It was a reunion of college friends.  It was a beautiful experience.  

It is also, well, pillow-inspiration. 


Here, vineyards grace the November roadside as we drive to find a calm, warm spot on the bank of the Russian River to recover from a night of card games laced with beer, and a morning filled with one too many waffles.



And here is that perfectly lazy day.


So with the artistic freedom of making a landscape pillow with Moe's face included, emails with little direction, see below: 


I sketched, 


...received a thumbs-up, visited the fabric store, 


...and embarked on another pillow-making journey.


Redwoods, vineyards, a landscape….and Moe (and pretty nail polish).






The finished product!  Moe is a little difficult to see when the pillow sits upright, but overall I like the outcome, and am even more pleased, excited, and well, thrilled! that my friends were also happy.  That's what it's all about, after all.  





 Sealed with lots and lots of love.


Could this be your next package?!  As much as I love coming up with pillow designs on my own, there's little better than making other people's ideas come to life.

THANK YOU for the fun, friends.  I love you.

Smiles,
Jo