Monday, January 2, 2012

a second post!

I've always admired hippie-type people. My eldest's first childcare situation was in the home of someone I'd describe as a hippie-type person. She was wonderful - fed him great food, was endlessly patient and kind and warm, exposed him to lots of musical instruments and crafts, encouraged lots of outside time. When she decided to go back to school, she and I both cried on his last day, and she gave us a sort of quilted hanging thing with his name on it that she'd sewn. In my mind, she was crafty. I always felt like a bit of a fraud around her and her friends, like I wasn't really hippie enough to hang around them.

I'm only just realizing how utterly stupid that was.

One of my struggles with whether it's right for me to quit my job and stay home with my kids is that I don't see myself as having the qualities of a good stay-at-home mom. I'm not crafty or patient. I can't really sew. I hate cleaning, mostly. I wouldn't mind a much tidier home, but I always have a million other things I do instead. I'm a reasonable cook, and I enjoy doing it when I'm not under time constraints, but that's pretty much it for my domestic skills.

I once fantasized about learning to make furniture and stained glass, but I quickly stomped on that. "I'm not handy. I can't work with my hands." When I see arts and crafts that I admire, and I think about incorporating some of the techniques into my artwork, I think, "But I'm not crafty. I don't have the patience for that kind of thing."

In my day job, I write and edit. I always feel annoyed when people say, "You have such a talent. I can't write for shit." (They haven't seen the crap I wrote when I was 15 and 16.) I've always maintained that all good writers start out writing crap. The only thing that separates good writers from bad writers is the drive to get better. And writers only get better by writing and reading. I've discovered it's the same with photography. Everyone starts out making crap pictures. You only get better by making more pictures and looking at more pictures and thinking about pictures. And every time you try to learn a new tool or technique, your pictures start sucking again. So why, in all this time, have I not figured out that this principle probably applies to everything?!?

Early in Radical Homemakers, she mentions mending your clothes instead of buying more. Immediately, I thought, "But I'm not crafty. I can't sew."

Later, people in the book talk about how important attitude is in reclaiming domestic skills. That it's not about what you know, but what you're willing to learn. There is no reason you can't learn something new. There's no reason I can't learn to sew or make crafts or whatever else needs to be done or that I want to do. It will feel like shit to suck at something again, but that will eventually lessen I'm sure.

This makes me wonder if perhaps there isn't some innate, you either have it or you don't, hippie-type trait after all. Maybe we're all just living our lives, doing things we've learned to do well and not so much on the other things.

We spent a few days at my parents' house over Christmas. And it suddenly struck me where a lot of this negative self-talk came from. My mom. I remember her saying, specifically, "I'm not crafty," many times over my life. Like when she taught me to knit and pulled out the baby blanket she was still working on -- for a child who was, by then, 16. I don't want to get into mother-blaming; we're all flawed and trying really hard. But I don't want to listen to that voice anymore. If I want to do something, I'm just going to give it a try and let myself suck at something.

The grout is falling out of our shower. For a long time, I wondered what kind of contractor to hire. It wasn't a whole tiling job, just digging out the grout and regrouting. Who would do such a small job? Well, last week I decided I would. I'm not going to lie, digging out the old grout was tedious. But every time I got impatient or thought about how boring the job was, I also thought that if work like this will allow me to quit salaried employment, it was well worth a few hours of tedious work. I didn't quite finish the job myself. After I dug out enough grout, I was about to mix up the new grout and discovered huge warnings all over the box. I got paranoid about breastfeeding and possibly ingesting the stuff, so I got my husband to do it. Anyways, the job is done, mostly if rather messily, and we can shower again, and we didn't drop a couple hundred dollars to have it done. If/when we decide to sell, that's one less job we'll have to do.

Today, I made chicken stock with the carcass of last night's roast chicken (which won nice reviews around the table). I almost chickened out (ha), because I wasn't sure what kind of soup to make with it since we didn't have any chicken meat left after lunch today, but I took a stab. And I gotta, I'm pretty won over by making my own stock. So now I have a freezer bag of vegetable scraps started in my freezer. When it's full and I want to smell a simmering pot of stock, I will make vegetable stock. This is heady stuff, this whole learning new things stuff.


  1. It's GREAT! I roasted a chicken on nye, and then felt so guilty that I just threw away the carcass bc I knew I wouldn't have time to make stock out of it. Having to buy one less carton of chicken stock won't be the make or break that helps you decide what to do with your life, but it can help you feel confident enough to just fucking do it. Baby steps, sister. It's worth it, I promise.

  2. Kgirl and scarbiedoll got me started on making my own stock and soup. Now i am kinda obsessed w it. Go you!

  3. I spent a long time believing I was not particularly good at the visual arts. A major moment for me was working on a mini-term course with an art teacher. I admired the work around the classroom and how she drew the students' talent out. She talked about how everybody had the ability and could develop it through support and practice. As part of the week together, I did the same project as the kids and realized that maybe I am crafty after all. It's amazing how sometimes we need something to come along to remind us that we have to start somewhere and if we want to learn something, it's worth taking the risk and allowing for mistakes.