Monday 25 March 2024

Toward springtime: an improvised lyrical dance

I called February a “slow burn.” In March we lit the wood stove at our holiday cabin and watched both the fast burn and the slow burn.

I realized that when I was listing activities for last month that I smooshed February and March together, then decided to separate the entries later. I don’t feel like fixing my chronology, so here is everything that we did in the last weeks that wasn’t listed under February. In case you hadn’t already heard, neither the internet, nor human memory, perception or narrative consists of objective truth. So don’t look for that on my blog either.

  • The cat guests moved on and I cleaned furiously and gleefully for most of a day. I have never lived with animals before and I’m not keen to do so again, at least not in this house. The cats were cute and one was friendly.  They also made our small, somewhat shabby and cluttered space feel even smaller, more shabby and more cluttered.  It wasn’t exactly the direction I want to go in.
  • Ukrainian dance festival: 3 dances performed, one silver medal (AJ) and two gold medals (me and Dani). The judge this time marked quite strictly. Dani’s group was missing three dancers out of seven but did extremely well anyway. My adult group* was on point and we were told that we looked “pre-professional.”  You bet all us ladies had an extra spring in our step after hearing that. AJ was not happy about her silver. Even though several groups received silver she saw that as a loss. It’s part of the experience though and she has worked through it. After all, if everyone gets a gold medal all the time regardless it doesn’t mean a lot. Her group of energetic girls will be hungry for gold next festival.
  • After all that dancing I got to relax in a salon chair for a hair appointment. 
  • The weekend after festival, Mr Turtle and I dropped the kids off with their grandparents and drove west toward the Rockies. Our destination was a tiny log cabin nestled on a mountain, wreathed with mist and surrounded by tall pines and snowbanks. It was lovely, and we will savour the glow for a while. 
* My adult dance group ranges in age from late 30s to mid 50s, with the majority of us in our 40s. Everyone has significant previous dance experience.

Cabin art:

The view from our cabin window - my interpretation

  • Being in the mountains always gives me different thoughts.  Although there is change there like everywhere else, it feels more eternal than being in a people-made space. I may put together a woodsy-blog later.

Found quote and art inspired by the Christmas lights on the cabin.
This is something like my 5th attempt at drawing lights. 

  • We returned to spring break and I can’t wait to spend a solid two or three days getting caught up on laundry and housework. Hahahaha. But actually, yes. It’s quite lovely to not feel rushed.
  • AJ’s Nana gave her a sewing machine and spent some serious time showing her how to use it during their sleepover. AJ is now creating some simple projects independently. She is also expressing some more interesting in learning crochet.
  • Current crochet projects: a little green dragon for AJ’s best friend.  And the poncho for AJ that I’ve been working away at for a while.
Plans for the rest of spring break, other than cleaning: a work in progress! How delightful to know we can just make it up!

Thursday 21 March 2024

Slow Burn - at winter’s end

Late winter/early spring:

February was a blur of trying to keep up with our daily routines, and occasionally have fun, in between dealing with illness and injury. Well, we made it to March, which is speeding by in a series of weather mood swings. When I started writing this entry, it was a snow dump. Now, though still crisp, it is sunny with intense blue sky.

February-March redux, with the help of my iPhone calendar, my exo-brain:
  • I went to yoga, twice;
  • Dance group photo day (dress-up time!);
  • Birthday parties to attend (2);
  • Teachers’ convention, where my theme was the Slow Down movement;
  • Met up for the second time with a friend from high school/university days, who has lived in Europe since 2003; 
  • Weekend extra dance rehearsals (attended 2, missed 1);
  • Bingo volunteering;
  • Cat sitting 2 cats;
  • Informal music concert for AJ (she sang “Colours of the Wind” from Pocahontas)
  • Hand-hemmed 12 scarves for my dance group (this was my self-regulation activity)
That’s in addition to our regular weekly activities, including school, work, dance classes X3, music lessons X2. And of course feeding ourselves, making various things dirty, cleaning them, and making them dirty all over again, in an infinite cycle. Oh yes, and we were sick a lot, which I’m not interested in remembering in great detail. But poor AJ missed two weeks of school and Mr Turtle one week of work.

Dani and me were a little bit sick but not as much. But then one of the cats, who was usually very patient, scratched Dani. The two of us ended the month on a course of antibiotics, her for the cat scratch and me for a nasty bacterial (I guess?) vaginal infection that dragged on for a month. A very gross first for me! After celebrating official menopause, there I was buying period underwear again to deal with the mess. I feel like I’ve been on antibiotics a lot the past year. Just call me a superbug breeding lab.

Anyway, I would rather remember February for my scarves:

I don’t understand everything I do. I could give you reasons, but they as likely to be made up as they are to be true. Not because I want to be untruthful, but because sometimes my own motivations are a mystery. I don’t own a sewing machine, but I could have found one and the hems would probably been ok hemmed on a machine.

I felt very strongly that I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to hand sew each one. The scarves were just raw pieces of satin that were quickly cut to match our skirts, which were made just in time for our first performance in January. I did my scarf first because it was fraying apart and I was sure nothing I did could make it worse. Then the ladies liked it and I said I would do everyone’s.

Maybe it is all the reading/listening/thinking I’ve been doing around making conscious choices about technology. Or learning about the Slow Movement, which is a similar idea. Or maybe it feels more like a gift to truly give your time and talents, rather than doing things to get them done. Or maybe I just really needed to spend February and the first week of March hand sewing. Well, that I know I did. Whatever, there was something satisfying about taking unloved and unlovely pieces of cloth and transforming them. They are not all perfect. But that’s kind of also the point. I shared something of myself, even when it was flawed.

The scarves looked great finished. They will no longer fray and the heavier hems hang much nicer, the ladies observe.

Observations, related and not related at the same time: Out there (I define it so deliberately) it seems there is an endless moil always about how to persuade people of this or that, of how to draw their attention, of how, perhaps, to change their minds. That would mean, in theory, that many of us are thinking seriously about how to change other people’s minds. I kind of doubt that is that case though; I think rather that “influencers” act as if their audience do not have minds, or do not want to use them; they do not offer the grace of even attempting to change a mind honestly.

Be that as it may. Sometimes I think about changing my mind (I don’t have the time for anyone else’s.) How does that even happen? My friend D wisely observed once that people do not change their minds easily, and that makes a lot of sense, because generally speaking, our beliefs serve us well in getting along in the world. It doesn’t make sense to constantly disrupt that.

There are times when you have to change, however. And I think for me, it is slow, subterranean, most of the time almost invisible. It involves a lot of observing myself. For example, I might say something to someone, or even write it here, and at the same time be observing it and deciding it is no longer entirely true, all at the same time. Sometimes I don’t know the untruth of something until I say it.

I write to discover; to experience my own slow burn.

I will end here and carry on with March in another entry, even though it is already the last week of March.

Saturday 3 February 2024

Amigurumi and more

Herein, find a summary of December and January's crochet projects.

It's fair to say that these winter projects were dance-themed.

My current crochet interest is amigurumi , a Japanese word for small knitted or crocheted creatures. According to the ladies at the boutique yarn store where I sometimes indulge, I am not at all alone in this. The cotton yarn that is preferred for amigurumi flies off the shelves. Amigurumi have a distinctive "Hello Kitty" aesthetic - big head, small chunky body, small face - which makes them very cute and universally appealing.

The first, and most ambitious project I worked on was a doll that I donated to the the Malanka silent auction. I used this pattern from the designer Galena Veremeenko. I chose it because of the beautiful details, which from a creator perspective, are both the most challenging and rewarding aspect. I had to read the pattern carefully and often several times to make sure I wasn't forgetting some of the details, from the bead earrings on the doll's tiny ears to the dark green centres of the poppy headdress, from the embroidered detail on the dress to the dangling ribbons at the back. Some creators omit a few of the accessories, but I joyfully included them all.

Front view

Detail: poppy headdress

Back view

I started this project in December and finished it the first week of January. As I worked on my girl I had plenty of time to think about the significance of why I took on this project. I usually begin crochet projects on a whim. I wouldn't say I think much about it at all. I get an idea, then I search Etsy for a  pattern, and then if I find one I like I can't wait to get started. The spontaneity of it is partly why I enjoy it. I can just decide to create something and make it happen. It's a kind of superpower. But of course, once I commit to a project it feels different.  Time, effort and focus are required, and that means sacrifice. As I worked on the doll, I realized that it was at least partly a symbolic statement of what the dance organization has come to mean to our family, as well as a statement about how important it is for me to be accepted and acknowledged as a member of this group. As such, I of course had some butterflies about how the doll would be received, if she would attract attention at the silent auction, and so on.

All the time I was making the doll, I no qualms about giving her up, as that was always the intention. It wasn't right until I handed her over that I experienced some separation anxiety! After all, this was something that a lot of time and love had gone into. I was quite attached.

Happily, my girl was very well received. Everyone who got a look at her before the silent auction was very excited, and it caused some buzz even before the event. One of my dance classmates particularly had her heart set on her, and she got into a nice bidding war at Malanka. I'm not totally sure of the final bid, but it was at least $125 CND, which was quite satisfying. I also am happy that I have shared some of my other creative side with this community.

Of course, I couldn't make this doll and then not make something for my own daughters. The original plan was actually make to three dolls, keep two and donate one, but when I saw how much time was involved for the doll and how costly materials were, I nixed that plan. Instead, I created these teddy bears using another awesome but simpler pattern from Marizza Toys.

Ballerina bears

The colours of the outfits match AJ and Dani's practice outfits. I gave them their bears after they performed.  I put the finishing touches on the second bear in the car as we were driving to the hall to perform.

What's next for amigurumi? Well, I want to make another Ukrainian doll to keep. I'm not quite sure if I should make it look the same or add some customization. I'm half tempted to give her grey hair and a bun, and a slightly different outfit as an homage to my group of mature dancers. But I don't know, maybe that is a third doll. 

I also want to make a small green dragon as a gift for AJ's best friend. And then I'll still probably have a fair bit of yarn hanging around, so we will see.

I also like to have an easy project on the go, something repetitive that I can work on in bed while listening to a podcast. The moment when I crawl into bed is one of my favourite times of the day, not going to lie. Also in January, I completed this ballet shawl. The yarn is a soft synthetic, a very dark green that looks black in some lights, and forest-y in others. It is delightful to wrap around my waist before class or workshop on a winter day.

So, January was busy, but in a soulful way, I think. I need the experience of creating my life, not just reacting to what comes at me like a speeding train. Crochet is a way to call that meaning to me: it's tangible, intentional, and can be used to tighten family and community bonds. Not a bad way to start the year, at all.

Sunday 28 January 2024

365 official

I have known for a while that I was getting close to the official menopause marker. I stopped having regular periods at age 39 (five years ago, about a year after Dani’s birth). Not that I was ever particularly regular. After several months of no periods, hot flashes, bad sleep, etc, I saw my doctor who confirmed what was going on with blood tests. So since then I have been telling people I am in menopause but I would still (annoyingly) occasionally have something resembling a period. It was always very light, barely more than spotting.

But today I checked my fertility app (tucked away in the “extras” folder of my phone LOL) and behold!

I’m officially past the 365 day mark! Definitely in menopause!

I feel extremely lucky, so far. I hear so many horror stories from women my age or a little bit older, of constant heavy bleeding, pain, and other awful things. Whereas my fertility gracefully exited stage left after the second child.

I had an ultrasound not long ago that showed no problems anywhere, only a small calcified fibroid. A couple of years ago I saw a pelvic floor physiotherapist for a while. I have occasional hot flashes still. But none of this is an overly serious problem, and I can adapt with small lifestyle changes (i.e. dress in layers)

Nothing about the future is guaranteed, but for now I’m very happy with where my life is at. I love my children and that I had the opportunity to have babies. I also love that now all the energy that was going into fertility can now go into something else. That’s the way I think about it: it’s time to prioritize different things in life. 

Monday 1 January 2024

Happy New Year!

 I'm having a good time slowly adding bits to my New Year's Post on torthúil explores. Feeling grateful for all the people who inspire me to push the limits of what I can articulate.