Heavy

A week ago, I was told I was going to have a miscarriage.

(I hadn’t told you I was pregnant yet. I wasn’t hiding it, just wasn’t quite ready to share yet. I had just decided to when the spotting started.)

I knew this already. In the time it took to run all the blood tests from when I first started spotting to when I got the results, the miscarriage had already started. I was bleeding, not a lot, just the right amount. It was exactly like the midwife told me it would be.

It wasn’t bad, but I stayed home from work. It was more comfortable to be home with my boys. I pitted cherries from the farm and watched Death Comes to Pemberley on Netflix. I made a pie and did some light gardening. I swept the floors and read, all the while, trying not to mind that I was flushing away a pregnancy bit by bit.

By Friday, I was feeling pretty good. I thought the worst was behind me, that it could only go uphill from there. I was going go back to work on Monday. I spent the morning bouncing back and forth between light housework and writing a new chapter in my book, filling a hole in characterization. I felt I was on the mend.

I showered. The bleeding had picked up again, but I wasn’t concerned. A little bit of heavy bleeding was to be expected with this sort of thing. Still, it was time to pick Athrun up, and I made Brock drive, just in case. When I got out of the car to fetch Athrun from his grandparents’ house, I knew something was wrong. I had never felt bleeding that heavy as it was when that moment when I stood up.

Not wanting to alarm my husband too much, I just told him we needed to go home instead of the grocery store, like we had been planning. We hadn’t been out of the house more than 20 minutes, but I was overflowing the large pad I was wearing. It was scary, so I locked myself in the bathroom and called the midwife. She told me to get to the emergency room.

The bleeding didn’t slow down. We waited for more than 3 hours to be seen, with me limping, doubled over with labor-like cramps, to the bathroom every 30 minutes (or less) to change my pad, sickened at the alarming amount of red I was leaving in the toilet.

By the time I was seen, my lips were the same shade as the rest of my face and my blood pressure was dangerously low. I nearly passed out when they led me to my room. They put me on fluids. They examined me. They waited. The bleeding slowed, but not enough.

I ended up having a D&C in the middle of the night. The hospital was dark and quiet. So different from when we arrived and the ER was full of paramedics rushing patients in from ambulances, and police officers standing guard outside various rooms.

The operation was like a vacation. I got to sleep (anesthesia induced, but still, it was sleep). I got more fluids. When I was awake, they finally gave me some food and something to drink, and it was like heaven.

It was only about an hour til dawn when we got home, and I have spent most of the last three days sleeping. I am still pale as a ghost. Until last night, I was still dizzy if I was on my feet for longer than a minute. I can’t pick up my baby and I can’t drive, but slowly, I am recovering from the blood loss.

My husband has been doing everything. He is a superhero.

My miscarriage has been far more traumatic than labor ever was. And I’m still frightened that it isn’t over yet. I’m frightened of bleeding, even though it is such an essential part of being a woman. I don’t know where to go from here, but talking about this feels important.

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Some Links for Tuesday

It’s been kind of a rough week for us, so I’m sharing some of the things I’ve been enjoying lately and taking a rest. Have fun, and feel free to share some of the stuff making you happy this week.

1. I received a wholesale catalog from The Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild at the day job today. I can’t sell anything out of it in my stores, but there was something on every page I could see selling spectacularly in some other type of shop. See especially, planet plates, disappearing liberties mug, and Freudian slippers. What’s not to love? (There was also a Miyamoto Musashi plush doll that doesn’t appear to be available on their website yet, but how cool is it that there’s a Musashi plush? It doesn’t look like Toshiro Mifune–who played Musashi–which is a little disappointing, but I might have to buy it anyway someday.)

2.I don’t think I can eat cheese anymore. It’s sad, because I love cheese, but lately, it makes me feel sick and twisty on the inside. Enjoy your cheese while you’ve got it, people. (Yeah, there’s no link here. Please visit your local dairy instead.)

3. Right now I’m knitting Buckhorn Cowl with the current PFA KAL. It’s a fun, quick knit. I should cast it off tonight or tomorrow.

4. When I finish with the cowl, I’m going to swatch for the Mesmeric Cardigan. It might be the most complicated sweater I will ever knit.

5. Did you know my husband also has a blog? He’s building a video game called Dig, Robot, Dig!

6. Since my husband gets me, he sometimes sends me stills from Toshiro Mifune movies while I’m at work. Here are two of his latest, from Scandal

scandal1

scandal2

(Have I ever mentioned that I studied Japanese in high school and college?)

7. This led him to starting another tumblr of Mifune gifs. They are magnificent.

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Scary Stories

Thank you so much everyone for the great show of support over my last post. It took me two months to figure out how to write those words, and now that they are out there, I feel liberated.

I also feel this horrible pressure to produce a stellar follow up. I look at my word processor with a little bit of fear now, thinking about how I am going to top the last post? Or, screw top it, just match it? How am I going to do that consistently, two or three times a week, every week, forever?

The obvious answer is, of course, to put my butt in a chair, my fingers on a keyboard, and start typing. For a long time though, even that was too hard for me to do. I would sit down and the ants-in-the-pants feeling that prompted me to learn how to knit just so I would have something to do with my hands–that can’t keep still, have to fiddle with something anxiety that settles in my jaw and hardens my shoulders–would paralyze me with tension. If I let it go too long, it turned my stomach and knots up my neck until I can’t see for the pain radiating through my head.

I used to open up a word processor and fear my potential. I would sit numb in front of my computer, the ability to think having fled in the face of this big, scary thing I said I wanted to do. Not wanting to take the time to search out the right words was easy to blame on being busy with work, being tired from the kids, being burned out by school. Closing the lid on my laptop was so simple and authoritative an action. No writing today.

November 1st, I sat down at my computer and told myself to write 2000 words. No pressure. “They don’t have to be good words,” I said to me. In fact, let them be shitty words. Let them be boring words, just write them. You can always change them later.

That’s how I got through the whole first draft of my novel.

Nanowrimo taught me how to write everyday. But I was still afraid to do simple things in my story–honest things–like have two characters who are fighting get really pissed off at one another. My climax was the most amiable, life-changing altercation you’ve ever seen. The problem was, in my head, this pivotal confrontation was monumental, but the conflict on the page read as trivial at best.

The final third of the novel hangs in the balance, and I’m afraid to let the main characters say too many mean things to each other in case the reader stops liking them?

How stupid is that?

Not only does that not give you, as the reader, enough credit, but it completely undermines the whole point of the story. No conflict = no story. If my characters were sensible people, he and she wouldn’t be in the predicament they’re in in the first place, and you probably wouldn’t ever read it, because it would be boring as hell.

(You’re enjoying all this vague talk about my novel, aren’t you? What’s not to like?)

Fear of readers not liking my characters kept me from committing to a crucial scene, and fear of boring you now made this a really difficult post to write. Scariest of all is what I’m planning to do next–which is to pursue writing as my (eventual) main source of income.

Isn’t that the freakiest shit you ever heard of?

Scares the pants off me.

Not only does seriously pursuing a freelance writing career involve sitting down at my computer every day and facing the fear that my words are fucking lame, but it also means that I have to drum up the courage to make for myself the profession, but have always feared I’d fail at.

What’s even more horrifying though, is not trying at all.

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It’s Time for Something Different

Some of you may or may not have noticed that I closed down my etsy shop a couple of weeks ago. I tweeted about it last week, but otherwise, I closed it down fairly quietly. It was not a bittersweet moment for me.

dinning room before

The glamour of selling hand dyed yarn and fiber lost it’s appeal about two years ago. If you’ve been reading my blog since May 2013, when we had to leave our cozy little apartment and I didn’t have a place to dye for awhile, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise. I’ve bounced around with what I’ve shared with you since then, a little sewing, a little printing, a little gardening, even a free knitting pattern or two. Each and every one of those things was so much fun in the moment that I wanted to share them with you, hoping you’d be diverted as well.

But as I go back and read over some of my posts, I have to admit, that I am less than impressed.

calbedpulloverstorage

I can tell I was just dashing off posts as quick as can be–and lets face it, they were pretty shallow.

minerva

One of the reasons I closed down my etsy shop was that I just didn’t feel like I fit in there anymore. I love the DIY lifestyle. I love making my own chicken stock and yogurt, I love processing my own yarn from a big greasy fleece. I love composting and gardening and making my own soap–but you know what’s left after you do all of those things?

A mess.

messydesk

A big fat one.

But etsy is selling a curated, tastefully simple, DIY lifestyle these day, and kind of leaving the DIY out of it. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a million, brilliant artists still selling on etsy, but most of the time those artists are buried in a sea of not-so-handmade listings.

airbenderstripes

When it comes to the fiber arts though, my competition remained largely other indie dyers and small farmers, and I was completely cool with that. What I was not cool with was the ever increasing price it cost just to get product views.

When I was really having fun with dyeing yarn and doing my yarn club, I could make a couple hundred dollars or more a month off my web sales, after etsy and paypal fees. Not enough to live off, but a couple extra trips to the grocery store if need be or a part for the car, that sort of thing. A couple of years ago, etsy introduced search ads, which allowed you to put your product at the top of the page when someone searched for the keywords you used on your listings. You could cap how much money you wanted to spend on search ads each week, and I thought it was effective. I put my reasonable cap on and saw an increase in sales and in page views when I used them.

tiny_dino_knit_before_it_was_cool_notecard

A few months ago, they switched the search adds to a bidding system which was not cost effective for a small shop like mine. The minimum cap was about $1/day. I gave it a try one month–while admittedly not doing a whole lot of other promotion–and paid about twice in fees as what I made in sales. I turned it off the next month and received hardly any page views and no sales. I don’t think I’d ever had a month with no sales since I opened my shop, but in December and January it was zilch, zippo, nothing.

I’m not blaming etsy’s new systems entirely. I have already said my heart wasn’t in it anymore, but the recent changes were the nail in the coffin of my little etsy shop. It feels like, as etsy has switched from a website where you go to find handmade originals, to where you go to find what’s on trend, that etsy is more preoccupied with selling the idea of a lifestyle rather than the goods that make that lifestyle possible. I thought etsy was supposed to be a stepping stone for launching a handmade business, but it feels to me now like it’s more concerned with nickel and diming the indie artist out of their studio space.

It certainly wasn’t the right place for me anymore.

clementines and cherry blossoms

And I feel like, while I was trying to fit into that etsy aesthetic, so was my blog. My identity as a blogger was confused. My writing was mediocre at best.

I wrote in November about sticking with Nanowrimo for the first time ever, even though I have goddamn degree in creative writing. I haven’t stopped writing since I started back in November. I’m putting the finishing touches on a draft of a novel, and hope to start searching for an agent sometime later this year. It’s taught me a lot about myself–one of them being that I tend toward caution when I really want to kick and to curse and to generally stir up a fuss.

uterus

Writing my novel has shown me that while I don’t believe in censorship, I certainly was practicing it on myself a lot, telling myself this was too controversial to write about, or that was too political. That I would write “fuck” too many times and offend someone.

carrotjuicemarla

And now I kind of don’t give a damn.

What’s this mean moving forward? I’ll still write about my knitting and my gardening, but I might also write about books or my writing. I might piss you off. I might insult you. Mostly, I hope to make you laugh, or to motivate you to live your dream. Because I have always wanted to be writer, but I never had the courage to let myself be one before.

imadeit

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Handmade Round Cotton Washcloths

round natural cotton washcloth

I don’t crochet often–hardly at all in fact, but I do like a good handmade cotton washcloth. I find nothing more boring than knitting washcloths. I think they’re gorgeous and lovely to use, but I have a hard time bringing myself to knit them. Crochet on the other hand, is something that I am inexpert enough at that crocheting a few rounds of double crochet is a fun challenge when I need to change up my evening routine, and in about the time it takes to watch an episode of Gilmore Girls, I have a washcloth

round cotton washcloths

I realize washcloths are traditionally square, or at least rectangular, but I spent a lot of time learning how to crochet in the round, and I like to do it. Also, a find a round washcloth works just as well as a square one – perhaps better.

crochet cotton washcloth with ribbon

I like that it folds up into little crochet pizza slices that look good in ribbon.

lavender soap and natural crochet washcloth

And they look good with the soap too.

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Why I Love Handmade Soap

lavender cocoa butter soap on wheat plate

About mid-spring, I got stuck on the idea that I wanted to make my own soap. Now, soap and I have not had a particularly happy history. It’s not that I have trouble with lye or fragrance (though I do try to avoid frangrance with phthatlates), it is simply that I have dry skin, and sometimes, using commercial soap was akin to dousing myself with itching powder–and then combine that with our hard water, look out.

I always had better luck with handmade soap. I tried Soap for Goodness Sake and absolutely fell in love with Nuture Botaincals and Bazil Essentials, which is a local-to-me company that I cannot recommend enough if you are in the market for vegan body products. I could lather up with these soaps and get out of the shower and not feel like my skin was going to snap Cassandra from Dr. Who style.

lavender cocoa butter soap bars

So what’s the big difference? Most commercial soap are made with Sodium Laueth Sulfate which is a detergent and skin irritant. Mixing it with oils make it resemble soap, but it more strips grease than cleans, hence the getting out of the shower and diving straight into a bucket of lotion. With traditional soap, yes, made with lye, the soap gently loosens dirt and debris off your skin as it lathers, but the oils in the bar also moisturize your skin. Since I switched to completely handmade bath products, I haven’t needed lotion at all. (Obligatory disclaimer: This is all totally my experience from n=1 experimentation with soaps. These statements are not to be taken as medical advice.)

lavender cocoa butter soap

I spent most of the month of June reading up on oils and their different properties–which ones make a super sudsy moisturizing bar, and which ones make a nice hard bar that one dissolve immediately in the shower. I discovered that my favorite oil is probably cocoa butter. It’s rich, creamy, supremely moisturizing, and makes the kitchen smell like fresh chocolate while you’re working with it.

lavender cocoa butter shave and shampoo bar

The chocolate smell, unfortunately, does not last through the soapmaking process, but the properties of the butter do. The lavender soap I’ve been sharing photos of has cocoa butter, castor oil, and just a little bit kaolin clay, which gives it such a creamy, rich lather that is perfect for shampooing or shaving. Plus, it’s really pretty.

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Lavender Infused Soap

The second batch of soap I made with my soap making kit from brambleberry.com was a small batch of lavender infused soap. I used the recipe that came along with the kit, but instead of mixing my lye with plain old water, I boiled some lavender buds I had laying around–they were food grade, and I had always planned to make ice cream with them, but never had–and soap seemed a great way to make use of them. It’s hard not to love a classic, relaxing scent like lavender.

I was still working with the cardboard mold that came with the kit, and as I discussed last time, I wasn’t completely thrilled my soap biscottis. I wanted soap bars, so I did surgery on my mold.

modifying a cardboard soap mold

I finally found a use for that washi tape I had lying around. (I’m not even sure where it came from, but it’s pretty funny.) By shortening the mold, I was able to make the soap taller.

lavender soap2
It almost looks like regular soap bars! It’s still a little short and wide, but it seems like it will be a little bit more practical to use in the shower.

lavender soap
I sprinkled a few buds over the top of the soap, but because I was still wearing some honking big rubber gloves, it was really more of a dump. Overall, I like the effect. And it smells wonderful. I added just a few drops of lavender essential oil, but I’m thinking most of the scent comes from the infusion. Next I need to get some little reusable tea bags and start infusing some olive oils.

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Pogona Progress

pogona progress
In my few free minutes over the last two weeks, I have been knitting on my pogona, not without progress.

pogona on the needles
One of the best things about knitting stripes is that I don’t want to stop. I want to see what it’s going to look like after the next stripe. And the next stripe. I’ve stayed up way too late a couple of nights doing this.

cozy stripes
This might be one of the coziest looking things I have ever knit. I give all the credit to the handspun. It makes me wish it wasn’t going to be 100 degrees outside today so I could cuddle up with it.

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Weekend Garden Update

We are finally starting to have some summer harvests, though the going is slower than I expected. Part of it might be that we got a bit of a late start, and part of it may be that it’s our first year in clay-y soil. Does anybody know any good cover crops for us to lay down in our beds for the winter? Or would it be best to mulch really heavily with compost and newspaper?

the summer harvest has begun

The tomatoes are ripening. The peppers are growing, even though the bushes they are on remain small. The cucumbers are doing what cucumbers do, but getting them enough water is a problem. They are all balloon shaped because it’s so dry–a problem I have never had before. The eggplants, like the peppers, are small, but producing one or two slender little ichibans at a time.

So far, we have one zucchini. One. I thought we would have six billion, but our zucchinis aren’t producing very many fruits. The little ones keep sprouting up, but they don’t ever seem to take. The blossom is about to fall off our one fruit, so I’m going to cut it tomorrow and hope the rest of the little ones catch up.

My main triumph is that I made salsa with the peppers and tomatoes you see in the bowl above, along with a handful of cilantro–all from the garden. Delicious.

How’s your garden doing?

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The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Livng

country living book

One of the few pleasure trips my husband and I have made since Felix was born was to Barnes & Noble for Brock’s birthday in May. While it was for his birthday, I came away with a pretty great find. (Don’t worry he found plenty of good stuff too.)

gardening country living book

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Living was in the sale section at Barnes & Noble and was about 80% off. I picked it up and flipped through it while Brock and Felix were perusing books by Richard Feynman and Carl Sagan, and I was hooked right away.

This book is definitely an encyclopedia. It’s a quick reference to a lot of different things. Obviously, the craft section is my favorite. It tells you how to do all of the following fun things.

basketry country living book

candles country living book

soap making country living book

They also have small tutorials on knitting and spinning and beekeeping and gardening. There is a lot of practical advice too. There is a whole chapter on building furniture–which has kind of got me hankering to invest in some power tools.

There’s also this
main objective

and this

smoking fish country living book
(that’s fish in a smoker)

One of the most valuable sections in this book is the section on canning.
canning country living book

Buried in the middle of this encyclopedia is a 120 page book on canning, which pretty much makes the book worth the full cover price alone.

I love this book.

I like to flip through the pages for inspiration, because the photography is phenomenal, and the subject matter in dear to my country-loving heart. It’s one of those books that you’re glad when you have when you don’t have internet access.

Also, now I really want to try my hand at basketry. Anybody with me?

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