Jan 172012

Every other Tuesday I meet with a few other women who belong to the “Munich Creative Group”. We meet for breakfast, and we tell each other what we have accomplished in the past two weeks, and what we want to do in the weeks to come. These meetings have been surprisingly inspirational, and the group as a whole is a veritable fountain of information. Want to know where to find art supplies, classes, get organizational tips, software or marketing help, improve your CV – there is bound to be someone who knows about it.

Today we met at a new location, a café that happens to be one of my favorite cafés in Munich. Twenty years ago I lived right around the corner from it.

creative notebook

We also made plans for a group show in mid-February. I’m very excited about that. I will definitely sing or play something, and I might even step out of my comfort zone and show a few of my photographs. Here are a few impressions from today’s breakfast (of course I only snapped pictures after everybody was done with their food, not before when it looked delicious).

creative breakfast


I also got a new mug for my husband’s morning tea or coffee. His old one lost its handle a few months ago, and since then he has been burning his fingers every single morning. And he isn’t a morning person on the best of mornings, so imagine his mood with hurt fingers (musicians usually are very particular about their fingers – my first thought when something happens to my hands is if I’ll be able to play or not). When I gave him his present at lunch he couldn’t help but smile:

smiley mug

Jul 282011

I spend a huge amount of my day sitting around and waiting. Waiting for my son to leave for school in the morning, then waiting for my husband to come to breakfast, waiting for my son to come back from school, waiting for work to start, waiting for students, waiting for phone calls, waiting for the time that I finally have time for myself, waiting for that miraculous space in my head that will enable me to make art at last, waiting for the weekend, waiting for Monday, waiting for my life to pass by.

Waiting for the time I lose weight, waiting for the time I suddenly get a grip on my life, waiting for the night so I can get some sleep – the list goes on and on.

And while I’m waiting I’m sitting in front of the computer, reading blogs, checking e-mail, reading and writing on ravelry, checking twitter. I sit there and tell myself that later I’ll surely do something productive, finish writing that knitting pattern, play the piano, sing a bit, finish sewing that skirt, edit that story. And then the next student comes, and I teach, and part of me waits for the lesson to be over, and then comes the time I’ve been looking forward for hours, the one hour of glorious free time that I have all to myself, and I’m all set to do, whatever, one of the things that are so important to me, only first I’ll check e-mail, and twitter, and ravelry, and then I have to go to the bathroom, and then I get hungry, and then there are only ten minutes left, and there’ll be another glorious opportunity, two hours later anyway.

It’s not that I don’t get things done at all. It’s just that a lot of my time and energy goes into the internet equivalent of watching soap operas. And all the time I fool myself, I list the things that I achieve, and it sounds mightily impressive until you see me sitting here on this chair all day long, looking into my monitor.

“I don’t have time for that.” I say. And I’m right in a way but in a different way this is like my son telling me that he has no time to pick up his room because he has to watch his favorite show on TV. Because there are only 30 minutes in an afternoon, aren’t there?

So for quite some time now I have been fighting this feeling that I’m just waiting until my life is over. Until my husband is dead, or my son has moved out, or something. It’s like I’m waiting for some magical transformation of my life, and then, at that point, I will emerge from all the waiting with my life suddenly just the way I’ve always imagined it.

I started to meet with a bunch of other women who meet every other week to help each other reach their creative goals. The last time I went there I told them that it’s not the time that I lack. It can’t be because I have two hours each day to waste on the internet. And one of them said, “Only two hours? But weren’t you the one who put a timer on her router?” Yep. That was me. The timer cuts me off from the internet between 10 pm and 8 am. I also disabled the wireless so I have to be near the ethernet cable to go on-line. Still, that leaves me with a lot of hours to spend sitting in front of the monitor, doing nothing productive.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet, and e-mail, and ravelry in particular but the question is how I feel after a day of checking in with my imagenary screen-friends, when I haven’t sung or played, or written, or picked up my bedroom.

So each day I try again, I kick myself in the butt, pick up after myself, exercise, do something productive on the computer, tear myself away from the screen to live my life here, in the moment, right where I am. I turn the computer off, I pull the ethernet cable out, I carry my laptop to the kitchen where I can’t connect to anything but myself. And then I hope that this day I will manage to spend my time with something else but sitting, waiting, and wishing.

(I know that “Sitting, Waiting, Wishing” is the title of a Jack Johnson song, and when I first heard that I instantly thought that line describes my life very well at the moment. I did have to look up the lyrics, though (not the chords by the way, interestingly I know those almost by heart by now) and the rest of the song does not have much to do with me.)

Jun 212011

So today I went to meet a bunch of women who help each other reach their respective creative goals. The meeting was very nice, and helpful too but I got a little embarrassed while introducing myself as, “I’m a musician, and a music teacher, and I write stories, and I have a blog, and a podcast, and I knit, and spin.” because it always sounds like I’m accomplishing so much. And who knows, maybe I am, and that’s why I always feel so overwhelmed.

And then somebody mentioned the book “Refuse to choose” that I read some time ago, and that reminded me about how I have wanted to do a map of my house showing all the works in progress that lay around everywhere. And since I don’t usually draw I thought it might be fun to take pictures instead. And then I thought you might like to read about that, so here we go (and since this is a very, very long post you might want to grab a cup of tea or something):


I started at the desk in my studio/office. This is the first sock for my soon to be ready for purchase sock design “Meadow Abstract”. I’m currently knitting the second sock, correcting errors in the pattern, and hopefully soon, I’ll translate the whole thing into English. (Underneath is some tax stuff, and random paperwork.)


Left side of the desk we have guitar tabs for “Road Tripping” a song I’m currently learning to play on the guitar.


This one was sitting in a bag right on top of my desk but it does look better like this, doesn’t it? It’s my current spindle spinning project. The fiber was dyed to go all through the rainbow, and I’m trying to preserve the colors while spinning.


On top of the spinning shelf inside the lazy kate there’s a ball of handspun Merino waiting to be swatched for a sweater, and underneath that some weaving that my son did, that I still need to hem. Don’t mind the green yarn on the bobbin, that’s not a project.


Too lazy to pull that out of its bag, here you see in the front my current wheel spinning project, also in the paper bag some red silk that I started spinning but don’t care about at the moment, and some cotton sliver that I started spinning on a suspended spindle. I don’t consider this a real project because I don’t care if I ever get that finished or not. It’s just for practice.


Big, huge, next spindle project. This is actually a sweater waiting to happen. My huge, big, scary project for July. (Two pounds people, two pounds of Corriedale.)


Piano. With some random sheet music. Playing the piano has been an ongoing project of mine since 1979. Still not finished. Probably never will.


Potholders to be. We’re down to only one pair so I bought some yarn today. After taking this picture I put it in one of the yarn storage boxes in the bedroom.


Pile on top of the stereo speaker: notebooks with stories waiting to be typed into the computer and eventually be published somewhere, book I bought to read for a book club that I never got around to open, and underneath the “Zen of Screaming”-DVD that I have been wanting to work with for about a year or so. Already watched it twice.


Stack of paper next to the computer: “How to make your own deodorant“-recipe that I printed out to have it ready for when I go to the health food store next time.

Next up the former guest bedroom, now the place where we watch TV:


Underneath the table there’s a basket with all my leftover sock yarn in it. Well, most of my leftover sock yarn. This will eventually be a blanket. Now to the bedroom:


Denim skirt to be sewn. I actually finished drafting the pattern, and cutting out the pieces on the day before we left for vacation but some time in the afternoon I finally listened to my husband’s advice, and didn’t try to finish it at all costs before leaving. It really only needs sewing by now…. (And no, I’m not a tidy person. This is draped over two dressers, actually.)


As I said. Underneath this mess is the dreaded mending pile. You see: the box the denim came in, the stuffing for another project that I’ll show you later, the finished sample for my soon to be released “Celtic Summer Sock”-pattern (need to fix errors, take fetching pictures of socks on my not-so-fetching feet, translate pattern into English, and such). Under those are my husband’s beloved Wollmeise socks that have a big honking hole in them, some brown yarn for a sweater I’m knitting, and some handspun Wensleydale. I don’t like the project I made out of it, and now I don’t know whether to rip or not.


Shawl waiting to be blocked.


Socks to wash by hand, table runner to be ironed to get wax out, apron to be ironed.

And off to the kitchen:


Green thread to sew the binding of my green corduroy skirt (that I have been wearing for ages) to the skirt itself.


Spindle with the part of the rainbow fiber on it that I’m currently spinning. Books to read on the kindle, episodes of Buffy to watch. (And lots of things to put away, oops.)


My corner of the kitchen bench in bad light.


Books and magazines that live on their own shelf next to the kitchen bench but I thought it would look better if I spread them out a bit. I have been trying to finish reading “Shadowrise” for ages, and the task is no less daunting for the fact that there is yet another part of that story to read after this one. I’m almost through with both spinning magazines, and some of these days I’ll educate myself about color in spinning so I can start dyeing fiber as well.


Spider sock in progress (lives in the red knitting bag).


Second “Meadow Abstract” sock, see above (orange knitting bag). Yes, my knitting projects are color-coded.


Mossy turtle in progress. That’s the project I need the stuffing for. Not all of the stuffing, mind you. It lives in the beige knitting bag that lives in the green knitting bag but that’s only temporary.


Beginning of sock yarn blanket. That I haven’t worked on for about two months. After taking this picture I transferred these bits, the crochet hooks, and the pattern to the knitting basket shown above.


Never-ending turtleneck sweater of doom. I have been knitting this thing since 2009. I’ve even started writing a song about it. I once was almost at the same point as I’m now, only the thing was too big. Now, after more than 1 1/2 years I’m finally starting to knit a sleeve. I need to calculate the rate of decreases now so this will only take a few weeks or months at least. For some reason I never get around to things like that.

After taking this picture I thought I had found all the works in progress but then I remembered. And went back to the bedroom:


This innocent looking broom handle will eventually become a backstrap loom. I now have everything I need.


Another project, I call it “Let’s get Susanne back in shape.” These are my running shoes.


For recording. This is a podcast waiting to happen, also improvisations waiting to be captured.


Four novel manuscript waiting to be finished. Well, okay, three because I don’t like the first one, and will never do anything with it.


Novel waiting to be edited.

You still with me? No wonder I feel a bit overwhelmed. I think I shouldn’t really start anything new soon. What do you think?


Apr 082010

(This was last month’s story for the writer’s meeting. The topic got to be “beer, glass and fear” one of these peculiar group efforts. The story still doesn’t have a real title. There’s something about this story that my writer buddies liked very much, I’m not so sure about, and my husband finds too simple and strained. Tell me what you think about it, please. And I’m still in search of a title. Also, I might want to stop starting stories with “A woman walked into a bar.”)

Nice girls like me don’t go in a bar like this, I thought while sitting down on a bar stool in that dingy little place, and ordering a beer. But then, since I was neither a girl anymore nor particularly nice that was okay. I did fake nice for my job, though, nice and patient and warm and caring. Fuck.

The place was dark, and full of smoke. I didn’t know that was still legal. There were a couple of people in here, looking like regulars at their own table way in the back. The bartender was placing drinks before them, a glass of white wine in front of a blonde woman holding a cigarette. She was standing too close to one of the men, wearing a tight white top, and low rise jeans on her narrow frame. I would have thought her to be around fifty if it weren’t for her voice, loud and harsh, sounding like she was a chain smoker. She was probably quite a bit younger than she looked, alcohol and nicotine having marinated her beyond her years.

I didn’t quite know why I had had the urge to come here this evening. I had passed this little hole of a bar often on my way home from work. The bead curtain at the entrance, the small cluster of regulars standing right in front of the door day and night, and never had I thought to go in here. But tonight I just couldn’t stand the thought of going home, of business as usual, and so I had come here.

My beer took too long to arrive. The bartender served everybody else before me. The two men standing to my right between the bar and the slot machine were looking at me. Sideways glance not meant to be seen.

I don’t know why I keep on doing this. I can’t do this work any longer, it’s killing me. Always nice, always smiling, always presentable. Sometimes I think I should give it all up and get a job as a cleaning woman. At least that’s honorable work. Work that needs to be done.

I should have gone home. Drink my own beer in front of my own TV, not in a bar watching sports with the sound turned off. Or better yet, I should have gone to the gym, work out, meet some friends and be civilized. Fuck.

At first I thought this was a good job. I had become a nurse to help people, to ease their pain. Then, after working in the emergency room for a couple of years, I couldn’t stand it anymore, and I looked for something easier with regular working hours. And so I had ended up in that place, a place for people with money, a place that had nothing to do with healing. And now I had the feeling that it was wrong to help these patients, our clients I was supposed to call them, I had the feeling that they all deserved it, that they should just give up trying. Maybe I should go somewhere else, even a hospice would be better than that.

I didn’t like it in here, and I didn’t want to talk to anybody. The guy sitting next to me tried to make eye contact, and started inching closer. I put a few coins on the bar, put down my half-empty bottle and left again. It had been a mistake, coming here, what had I been thinking.

It had been better for a while when I met Johnny. I had someone to come home to, we sat in front of the TV together, and then he made plans about marrying and family and kids. I don’t think I want kids, I had said, and he was totally mad at me. Not that he really liked kids or was a family guy or something, just, that’s not something you’re supposed to say, especialy if you’re a woman. Fuck.

I’ll just go for a walk. That will be better. Down the canal, away from the people. It was cold already this time of year. Throughout the day one could fool oneself, it still felt like summer, almost, but now in the evening, it got chilly. I had to close my jacket. My beloved leather jacket. Johnny hadn’t liked it, that old thing, he had said. He wanted me to look like a lady. Or sexy. Or both. He didn’t like my flannel shirts, and jeans and boots, and the oversized brown suede jacket with the big buttons on the front. I pulled the hood of my sweatshirt up, the sweatshirt I wore underneath the jacket. Nice and warm. I can take care of myself, I don’t need anybody to look after me.

Not like these nice damsels at the clinic, all of them falling in love with the doctors. All of them came with their nice little husbands, husbands who were secretely ashamed, who knew they weren’t real men. The women came like they wanted the doctors to fill in for their husbands. Of course, often it wasn’t because of the men. But mostly it felt like it were.

At work I was just a decorative and practical shadow. A nice, starched white shadow, smiling, leaning a hand, helping, carrying things, guiding people, a nice little white shadow, a servant, almost a ghost, and part of the furniture. Of course, at the clinic’s Christmas party Doctor Whiteheart always said how grateful he was for his staff, and that he couldn’t do it without us. Fuck.

Maybe a cigarette would make me feel better. I already smelled like it anyway.

The condom broke. It wasn’t my fault. Johnny had already broken up with me twice. Because he wanted to have a family. And because I didn’t want to he couldn’t take me home to meet his parents. Of course he couldn’t. He wanted a real woman, someone nice, and caring, someone who would fold his socks, and clean his apartment and cook for him. Not someone who liked going out and drinking beer, and playing computer games. He hadn’t minded in the beginning. When we met he said I was refreshing, and that my boldness made me sexy. And then he wanted a nice little wife, and I can’t be that.

I tried. Really. I even tried to cook, and have dinner ready on time but for some reason I never could do it right. It was always too late, or too early, or the wrong thing to make, or too salty, or whatever.

And then he came back, and after a few days everything was all right again. There was someone to come home to and to spend the evening with. And then the condom broke. And then he left and he didn’t call. He said, he had work to do. On the weekend. Johnny never works on weekends, never. But he said, this time was special, and that his boss had made him do it. And then I knew that he had broken up with me again. And I thought, this is it, this is the end. And a part of me was relieved. It is over. Forever over.

But then I started to feel weird. I thought I had caught a virus. I didn’t want to eat anything, and I felt nauseous all the time. And then I tried to remember my last period. And I couldn’t. And then one day at work I just took one of the pregnancy tests for myself.

I thought Johnny would be happy. That was what he had wanted, wasn’t it? But he just slammed the door in my face and screamed something about me not getting any money out of him, and that I was a hysterical bitch, never to come near him again, ever.


Mar 102010

Diving into the night as a floating wind came by to grip me, cars on the highway passing by. The moon staring at us while we were heading for the shoreline; the green fish staring at you while we wove our way through the algae, downwards into the deep blue cool, threading deeper and onwards. The caves nearby whispering to us while we floated between the corals, creatures like jewels asleep in the liquid dark.

Out to the open, the ocean, the blue, the dark, the cool, the wet, outwards, and downwards, into the depth. Our eyes blind from the cold, the pressure, the lack of light, only illuminated by smallish animals, wearing lanterns, and luminescence. Down through the sand to the point where there’s rock, always rock underneath.

Resting there for a while, pausing the race, not moving, letting the cold streams run over us, resting, but not for long, onwards, and upwards, outwards, through the deep, the blue, the cold, through where the water is calm always, up, and through, through the waves, the white crust of frothing waves, going up and down, right and left, never still, never at peace, drifting on. And on, always moving, riding the wind, the water, the dark.

Erin and Heidi at the mall, carrying their totes, their make-up, walking slowly because of their shoes. Very pretty shoes, there had been a sale, and so they had spent the last of their paychecks on these, sexy shoes with high spiky heels that made their ankles look pretty and slim. They looked very much alike from afar, their hair done into a puffy mass of curls framing their pretty faces. They liked make-up, those two, their eyes all heavy eyeliner, smoky shadows, and fluttering lashes, their mouths rose-colored glittering pouts.

Floating on the water, being rocked by the waves’ motion, waiting until the annoying moon starts to pale above us. More blue, more light, more warmth, rushing in, meeting the morning. Still, beneath us the dark, the cool, the deep, unchanged by light’s arrival. Onwards again, taking hold of the wind, merging, waving in and out, the air, the light, colors getting brighter, shiny. The water, sparkling with light, reflecting warmth, deflecting hearts.

The girls are speaking, endlessly, giggling, and gossiping, talking, never listening. Just an endless stream of syllables put forth with a meaningless smile. Both of them connected to the ether by invisible strings, their cell phones humming; shiny, sleek, bluetooth connectors at their ears and lips. Connected not with the world around them, with the people they see before them, with smells, and sounds, and sights right there but only with other people hanging from the same strings, never being where they are.

They walk slowly, taking care with every step; the sexy shoes demand attention, their totes getting heavier, the mall a whir of color and movement.

Onward and upward again, the air, the wind, the light, gliding, soaring. You and I, me and you, moving, sensing, now the sun is up in the sky, a one-eyed giantess bringing life and scorn, making the world bright, shiny, and slightly harsher. We know that the staring moon is still there but now he can’t see us anymore. Nosy he is but now he’s pale and in the presence of his big warm mistress he’s too far away to catch us. So we seize the moment, go on and on, rounding the globe, moving in, and out, up and down. Fear of falling isn’t hindering us. Going down deep we meet rock again, and again, going up there’s air and light, dust and sparkles, creatures big and small. Moving, moving, always moving. We wave in and out of the streams, the rivulets going down, the vapor going up, playing like dolphins.

The girls decide to have lunch, they are tired and thirsty. They stand in line, teetering on their heels, ordering tall styrofoam cups full of hot, bitter coffee with frothing milk and chocolate sprinkles. For once they sit down on hard chairs made from the blood of the earth, for once they are quiet, sipping their hot flavored water, and watching the people.

Come on, my love, don’t rest for long, let’s make use of what time we have left. Let’s bathe in the warmth of that yellow star that’s staring us down with her one yellow eye, seeing it all, making light, making warmth without mercy.

Onwards again, out and up and far away, floating, you and me, then us, merging and drifting apart. Warmer this time over the sea, the water green and blue and dark and cold, and quiet, and then sound again, waves and motion and onwards and up.

With the pale brown brew they drink, the girls’ strength returns, borrowed determination and energy. So they get up, whispering into their mouthpieces again, counting their bags. Each step something to think about, laden with goods they go out into the sun again on the street where cars pass by like animals herded into their pens. Erin and Heidi stand at the curb, all pink and curly and shiny on their nice shoes that make their ankles look pretty.

Come on, hurry up, there it is, one for me, one for you, so young, so dumb like corals and shiny, sleek fish. Come on, my love, here it is, now the sand, now the green, now the gray, dusty concrete jungle, human-made. Along their lines, speed and stink, moving beneath us, floating on the current of their exhaust, hot and ugly, but there it is, one for you, one for me. Nourishment, a sip of their souls, young and green, tasting like peppermint candy, all white and pink stripes.

The girls get into the car, tired and aching. The day feels gray, the spark gone.

Come on, my love, let’s go up and out and down again, to the water, to the rock, let’s rest and play, and hide from moon’s cold judging eye.

(I should stop calling these “story of the month” since it’s more like “story of the year” but I’m forever optimist. I started this in January 2009 as a homework assignment for my writer’s group. The assignment was “surreal”. I decided to write it mostly stream of consciousness-like as an experiment, and also I didn’t have much time. I never liked the ending, and was slightly dissatisfied until last month when I pulled it out again and finished it.)

Dec 032009

I just taped my NaNoWriMo winner certificate underneath my other NaNoWriMo winner certificates. I don’t know what it is about these competitions, I can’t stand to not win. The rest of the year I’m sitting on my lazy butt and don’t do anything much. But yeah, I did it – again – I wrote 50,000 words in November. The story is about one third done, and while I like the plot and the characters the language is blah, and since this story wanted to be fantasy I need fancy words, and names, and a fake history for their country and there are a few things that have to be made logical.


Of course my plan was to continue on, and make this mad November-dash into a nice little daily habit but so far it’s been the same thing as the years before, I haven’t written one word after crossing over the finish line.

This year I managed to do this as low stress as possible, I was very good and wrote mostly in the mornings, even if that meant turning on the computer at 6.15 and writing 500 words at breakneck speed until it was time to wake up my son. I never wrote late in the evening, these days I’m just too tired for that.

Life conspired against me, and so I ended up falling behind starting the second week. And I fell behind and behind until at the beginning of the last week I was on the brink of giving up. Then I remembered that that’s always what happens, I start out all smug, ahead of the game and then I feel like I can never do it. And then I decided to finish early even, and I had two days where I wrote like crazy. The second of these days was Saturday and that was the only day in this year’s NaNo that I asked my husband to do everything else so I could write. I wrote 6,000 words that day, and I even went grocery shopping, and took a shower. (Not necessarily in that order.)

I also finished knitting my NaKniSweMo-sweater the day after. Now it is sitting there looking at me because I still need to weave in the ends, wash it, get buttons and sew them on. The sweater is very pretty, I’m only afraid it might not fit because the yarn is rumored to grow bigger with washing. Sadly I can’t show you a picture because I keep forgetting to take one while there is still light outside. My motivation for really finishing it is also quite low because I won’t be wearing it for the next months. While it is wool it doesn’t have a turtleneck, and I know from experience that only turtlenecks make me warm enough in winter not to catch a cold. So, this lovely low neckline will be something for early spring.

I found that knitting a sweater in a month isn’t all that hard for me. Even when I start five days late, and I’m knitting something in a fine gauge, that is to say with sock yarn. The knitting was very pleasant and quite mindless. I find that that’s the way to go at the moment, my head is quite full, mostly with mundane and trivial things, and so I enjoy knitting stockinette around, and around, and around. Quite unusual for me.

As every year I find December quite overwhelming. There’s the present buying, and the present choosing for Christmas as well as my son’s, my mother-in-laws, and my husband’s birthday. There’s the school things to do like helping with the Christmas crafting, making and wrapping a nice little present for my son (that’s not supposed to cost anything, nice touch), and about half a million things I just can’t remember right now. We have already reached the point where we don’t go anywhere anymore, and if you’d happen to invite us anytime until February the answer would be an automatic “no”.

I’m still blessed to be teaching quite a lot, and I mean really a lot. For the first time in years I had to turn down a potential student last week. My timetable is full. On the upside that might mean I might get my new piano a little bit earlier. Last week I suddenly had a revelation about the piano. I thought that if I wait until I have all the money to buy it I will never get it. But I could pay it in installments. That’s totally do-able. And reasonable. Yes, it is. So I’m looking at a bright new shiny piano in my future. Sometime next year, I hope.

And my husband will be giving me this for Christmas. It’s a flyer for my spinning wheel. It’s called a “freedom flyer”; that does sound lovely, doesn’t it? A friend already told me about it, and when the new “spin-off” magazine arrived there was an ad in there, and I made my husband drop everything so I could show it to him. I would have bought it right away myself with part of the money I got for teaching those two knitting workshops but then my glasses broke on Saturday, and so that money will go elsewhere. And he (my husband) said, “Does that mean you want this for Christmas?” And I said, “I don’t know, it is too expensive, and I don’t really need it.” “Do you want it?” “Um, yes.” “Then I’ll give it to you for Christmas. Go on and order it.” And I did.

Oh, and about the glasses? Turns out that I’m getting old. Well, I knew that but not only do I need glasses to help me with my nearsightedness, I need reading glasses as well! For now I’m trying to do without but this will get interesting (and quite expensive) in the future.

On the plus side I’m getting new glasses! And they look pretty! And it will be safe to wear them for driving! And I will be able to watch TV again! Because right now I’m wearing glasses that are way old, and the whole world is fuzzy and looks a bit depressing. I spend most of my time spinning while listening to podcasts…

Nov 192009

And here’s another quick post to let you know that I still “aten’t dead”. (Well, unless I missed something terribly important.) I’m still firmly in the fangs of NaNoWriMo, something I might have to explain because people have been asking. NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Of course it’s totally International by now, and so I’m able to participate even though I’m not American. Every year in November aspiring procrastinating writers gather round their computers and write 50,000 words on a novel. Each one gets to write his or her own novel, and the rules are that you have to start something new, that all of the 50,000 words have to be written in November, and I don’t remember any other rules right now. Nobody is going to read your novel, or publish it, it’s just that you write and write and write. For the 50,000 words to happen you need to write 1,667 words a day though I always tell people it’s better to aim for 2,000 because there will be days when you can’t write for some reason.

This year feels particularly hard to me but maybe it just feels that way now that I’m slogging through the words, was behind. I should be well over 30,000 by now and I only managed to crank my word count up to 28,429 today because I chained myself to the computer and didn’t let myself loose before having written for something like 2 1/2 hours (with additional breaks). The story is gathering momentum though so it doesn’t feel like I’m writing uphill all the time now. I remember that from years past, week 2 is always the hardest.

People always ask me why I do it. (To be fair, people ask me a lot of things, for example why I’m not skiing, so I’m used to this.) Well, it is a bit insane but there’s nothing but the feeling you get when you reach the finishing line with your 50,000 word first draft of an original novel written by you and can show off your winner’s certificate. To see how that looks go to this old blog post of mine.

The next thing people ask me is what I then do with the resulting novel. Ahem. So far I have had two of these sitting in a nice little drawer. Then last year I pulled them out again and read through them. Well, at least one of them. The first was so bad that I just couldn’t stand reading it again. The second one has potential. I’m thinking about editing it maybe when it’s National Editing Month. (There is such a thing but I don’t know how it’s called and where to find it.)

Anyways, everything is going fine, I was only wondering why I feel so tired all the time and then I remembered: a) I haven’t slept enough again, and b) I have been doing a lot of writing on top of my regular life, duh, that’s like, you know, work. And this year November has been a bit crazy with things I have to do and places I have to go, and then I haven’t even dusted for weeks. (I have great plans of cleaning today, and even going grocery shopping. Wow.)

As you know I’m also attempting to knit a sweater in the month of November, a sweater that I started five days late and then had to frog after the beginning but – it’s coming along nicely. While I have fallen a bit behind because there were three days in a row that I didn’t feel lucid enough to start the sleeves, and while I’ve been knitting on the sleeve cap for three days now (something I would have imagined to take about two hours or so) the sweater is two-thirds finished by now.

I think there will be another crisis on the weekend since I plan to go on a yarn excursion complete with meeting an online friend from Stuttgart on Saturday and there’s spinner’s meeting on Sunday, and I know from experience that while I always think I can write my quota in the morning I rarely do, and then get all cranky. But then, who knows, this is also the first year of NaNoWriMo that I haven’t written everything late at night. Mostly because I’m so tired in the evenings that all I can manage to do is stare blankly into space and maybe knit stockinette stitch in the round.

Okay, off to clean, my son will be coming home from school in twenty minutes or so. See ya.

Nov 062009
  1. Just so you know what I’m doing:

  2. Yes, I decided to do NaNoWriMo again this year. First I was all sensible and only wanted to use it to get back into a regular writing habit, and write about 500 words a day. And finish a story I had started in June. Then I thought that not starting something new was like cheating. And then I thought, “Well, I can try how many words I can write comfortably without stress during fall break, and then I can decide later.” And – I think I’m hooked again. For now it’s really enjoyable if a bit crazy, I have managed to write mostly in the mornings so I could do other things later in the day without having to live with the dread of unwritten words all day long. In the past I have often procrastinated until bedtime and then written in a very bad mood and very tired.

  3. I’m also doing NaKniSweMo. But a little less seriously. Either it works or it doesn’t, and since I’m knitting a sweater with fingering weight yarn on 2.5 mm needles and couldn’t start before yesterday there’s a fair chance I won’t finish it in November. But I’ll try.
  4. nakniswemo-icon

  5. Since my last post I followed the advice of the beautiful Jo and got myself some new, low heel, pricey, and gorgeous boots from this place. So far I love them, I can even stuff my pant legs into them and still close them. They also work with hand-knit socks since I bought them one size bigger than I usually need. And I have walked in them for about twenty minutes already without chafing or anything. Great.
  6. Now I have to run and meet with my family, and get ready for lunch. See ya.
Oct 142009

As always it isn’t that I don’t have ideas for posts, or that I don’t want to write anything, it’s just that my thoughts are running off in all directions and I find myself with less free time on my hands as well.

If it weren’t for my husband the house would be a disaster, and I’m still working on this “go to bed on time”-thing. Also on the “put things away”-thing, and on “complete things on time”.

So, what is it that I’ve done?

1. I have designed and charted a triangular lace shawl:


I used traditional Estonian stitches from a stitch dictionary for this. The lace knitting class I’m teaching is already half done, only two more weeks to go.

2. I also am teaching a class on mindful knitting that is more fun that I had hoped for. I’m not really knowing what I’m doing but I’m very used to the “learn by teaching”-method and it usually works well for me and the students.

3. I’m knitting up a storm, trying to finish the UFOs lying around (Un-Finished Objects).

4. I’m transferring one of my stories from notebook to computer. I wrote this in June, back when I decided to write 3 pages every day. I’m still not finished with the typing, and for the last few writer’s meetings I only had this story to read to my writer friends. Since the story is now standing at 3,000 words, and they are still sitting on the edge of their seats waiting for what happens next, all is well. But I better finish the story.

5. On the same note I have decided (yes, I’m big on decisions today) to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year, only I’ll be “cheating” by setting myself a goal of a mere 15,000 words. That will be like going to a marathon to walk 5k very slowly but I know from experience how I feel after having written the full distance. I’m no good for at least the rest of the year, and won’t be writing either.

6. I wrote two half blog-posts. Unfortunately two halves don’t make one finished post. One of these days there will be sunshine and free time at the very same moment, and I’ll take some pictures and tell you about the joys of knitting with handspun. And some time this year you’ll get an account of my son’s first day of school. Which happened a month ago. Oops.

7. I’m also thinking a lot about being intelligent and school. Of course, one reason for this is my bright son who now reads as well as the average third grader (as far as I can tell, I only teach three third-graders at the moment), the other reason is a conversation I had with a woman I met in September. And I remember how bored I felt all through school, and it only got better in grad school. How I didn’t do homework for the last four years of school. And how I really want my son to have a better school experience than I had. Unlike me I’d like him to learn how to study and manage time some time before he turns 25.

But I already found myself telling him that when he is bored in school he better sits there quietly and politely, and that there are other places to learn things. At home for example. My husband and I decided that he needs something a bit more challenging and are turning lunch breaks into informal teaching sessions. (No, we’re not pushing him. We’re just having regular conversations with a bit more explaining for him.) So he’s getting a dose of stories about Italy or Brazil, a bit of history and politics, and also throwing a ball, salsa dancing, and crafting.

8. I have also turned inwards once again, so if you happen to be a friend of mine, or someone to whom I owe an e-mail, or someone who used to know me through comments on her blog: “It isn’t you. I’m not communicating with anybody right now.” Part of this is due to the fact that I’m teaching a lot these days. Which means that I see people and talk with them for hours each day. While I’m reading blogs, and tweets, at the end of the day (and in between as well), I just want to sit there quietly. Well, as quietly as you can when you’re part of a family.

9. I have bought a ton of books, and am reading, among them one on writing songs. Yes, I’m still thinking that one day I will be writing songs again. Maybe even this year, who knows.

After all it’s fall, and that’s always the time to make plans, and get more grounded. I do it every year, some years I’m better at following through other years I’m worse, who knows. Even though we had snow today. Snow. It’s freezing (in a literal sense). Still, snow or not for me it’s fall, and time to get things going again.

Sep 292009

Yesterday evening, after staying up too late to watch two episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” while knitting as I’m wont to do I happened to stumble upon a documentary on Steve Reich on TV. Of course I had to watch it.

I have loved Steve Reich’s music ever since I first heard about it in school. I had a very extraordinary music teacher in grades 11 through 13 who broadened our musical horizons whether we wanted to or not. To me it was as if I had just waited for something like this for all my life. It was there that I first heard contemporary composers, African drumming, and such, and her lessons were quite different than the ones I was used to before.

The funny thing is that I all but forgot about this kind of music. So yesterday I switched channels on my TV and all of a sudden there was this guy talking, and I thought, “I know him. who’s that?” and then there was “Music for Pieces of Wood”, and I thought, “Oh yeah, Steve Reich. How do I know this piece? I don’t have a recording of this, so why do I know every single note? Oh – I’ve played this in university.”

While I sat there, completely transfixed, my husband entered the room. He opened the door, took one look at the screen where Tehilim was played and said, “Steve Reich.” Matter of fact. And I thought, “This is why I love this man. He doesn’t even ask if this is about Steve Reich, he just knows it.” Even though he didn’t know that piece of music before.

Since then I have been in thinking mode again. About music, and the kind of music I love, about things I keep forgetting about even though I love them, and how much I’d like to make music that has that kind of feel to it, how I keep forgetting that one can not only make songs but music that consists of rhythmic patterns and transmutations, music that uses the human voice as an instrument instead of the main focus of everything, and about the fact that I don’t play drums anymore which is a bit weird but okay with me.

And, together with my husband, I have been thinking about living the life of a composer. Not that I’m in any danger of doing so, since that would require me to actually compose some music first, but my husband would very much love to spend his life inventing and playing music and being able to make a living of that.

And we found ourselves wondering how does someone like Steve Reich do it? Where does his money come from? Does he do his own laundry? Is he married? With children? I looked him up on wikipedia and found that yes, he is married and has a son, his income seems to come mostly from grants, commissioned compositions and touring, but I couldn’t find out anything about the laundry and the dishes and such.

Which is a shame. I would like it very much if I could learn more about the actual living conditions of other artists. Especially those who are able to earn a living by making their art. I know a bit more about writers thanks to writers who blog. But musicians don’t seem to take to blogging.

I know how my husband does it, getting up in the morning, doing household chores, cooking, folding laundry, trying to squeeze in a bit of guitar playing before lunch, then some time with our son before teaching, and teaching, and teaching, in between doing a bit of housework again, answering e-mails, making phone calls, teach some more, preparing dinner when he’s already feeling starved, playing the guitar again while waiting for our son to fall asleep, and then, finally, at the very end of the day, at the time where he feels like falling into bed, he goes back to the very same room that he spent his whole day in and works on his own music. For me that’s the time when I slump down in front of TV, the time where my energy is completely depleted and I’m running on empty.

I guess he is too. But – as you can see by my example – it’s either making music on empty batteries in the evening or it’s not making music at all. And then, after he has spent evening after evening recording, mixing, recording additional instruments, learning how to play drum set because he doesn’t have a drummer, learning how to record, adding more layers, other instruments, mixing some more, my husband really is too exhausted to go out and sell his music.

Because that’s the other thing. These days it takes him several years to make an album anyways. In the end he’s usually so fed up with that huge thing that ate his life for the past years that he just puts it away in a drawer. Both him and me aren’t any good at marketing. And to be frank, this isn’t something we are really interested to learn. We’d both love to have someone else take care of the advertising and selling part. In fact, we’d both love to be able to give the music away for free, something we both have doing for years now, if only somebody would pay our rent and such.

Steve Reich is really exceptional. He is so in many ways but also in that he isn’t teaching. Most composers do one way or another. Most musicians do. My students always think that a musician is someone living the life of a rock star, always on tour and/or in the studio. Well, I know a lot of musicians and most of them are teaching to earn a living. Some of them are also playing in bands on weekends, a lot of the ones I know have jobs that don’t have anything to do with music but you’ll find that the minute they have children on top of their jobs the music has to give way.

Music is cruel. You can’t just set it aside when you don’t have the time and pick it up again later. Much like an athlete you have to stay in training. After a short while your muscles get weak, you lose your calluses, your dexterity, and the ability to play the music you hear in your head. When you put too much other stuff into your head, housework, organizational detail, advertising, finances, mindless blubber, and when you stop listening to music because you “don’t have the time”, you even lose the music in your head.

I know all about it, it has happened to me. My head full of things I have to do, things I have to remember, and places I have to go, my life empty of space to just sit down and listen to something or play, I felt as if I had died inside.

Just the other day I was walking down the street and thinking about what the ideal life would look like to me, and I found (as I always do) that I’d be perfectly happy to spend my life writing both words and music, creating whatever strikes my fancy. And my husband as well. Right now we seem to cram creativity into the nooks and crannies of our already very busy lives. And often there is no space for creativity left.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jealous of Steve Reich, it’s just that living the life of a composer, or the life I imagine a composer like him to have – which might have nothing to do with reality – seems like a wonderful thing to me.