Saturday, December 31, 2016

Buh-Bye 2016

2016 kicked my ass. 

I don't have a better way to put it. It's not a stretch to say that this was the most difficult year of my life. Even worse than the year my mom died and I got divorced. Yeah, that kind of difficult, but piled way, way higher. At least there was no divorce this time. But I'm feeling... scathed. 

I don't know how I made it, but standing in the doorway between years, things are looking pretty darn good right now. Phew! Wow... what just happened? And man, am I tired.

Chances are, you got kicked around a bit too. It was a rough one for a lot of us. If you pay any attention to numerology, it's worth noting that 2016 was a "9" year (2+0+1+6=9). 9 is all about completion, which so often appears as endings and losses. Not always happy stuff to slog through, but with a little distance and a focused shift in perspective, completions and endings make way for beginnings. 2017 is a "10" or a "1." We're in luck! This next time around the sun is all about a fresh start. Not just because it's a new year, but also the beginning of another 9 year completion cycle. 

I swear to you, this could not be more accurate in my own little personal world.

Rather than recap (or more accurately, regurgitate) the last 12 months here, my plan is to make a list on paper of all the challenges, stresses, losses, pain, sadness, blah, blah, blah... and burn that sucker. Farewell 2016. Thanks for the lessons, the wrap-ups, the flourishes, the growth, the openings, and the amazing gifts. You did your job, top notch. Now on your way. Here's your hat, what's your hurry?

Then I'll write a love letter to 2017. Welcome! Let's go out and play and make things and move forward and laugh and share and dance... all of the above, on the beach! Something like that, short and sweet, and no stupid resolutions. I think gratitude and an open invitation to joy are all the guidance this particular new year will need.

More on the beach part soon. (Hint - we're moving!) For now, out with the old, in with the new, and an enormous sigh of relief.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

On Safety Pins and Feeling Lost

In the wake of an election that did not go the way I expected or hoped it would, I am so confused about this country I barely leave my house right now. I stay home and knit mostly, which is a valid thing to do, since I'm actually getting paid to do it these days. Still it might also be a little bit cowardly of me. I will admit to feeling kind of lost, and at a loss as to what I might do that will do any good.

"Peaceful" demonstrations in the Portland streets are not just "out there" somewhere, but in my own downtown neighborhood. I look out from the safety of my fifth floor window, and see streams of people marching, shouting, chanting, carrying signs. The signs are all over the protest map, scrawled with everything from "Love Trumps Hate" to "Please Be Nice" to "Not My President" to "F**k Trump." 

These peaceful demonstrations are taken over by a few dark-minded trouble makers, and then I see trucks loaded with riot squad police officers roll by, followed by the sound of loud speakers and warnings, and eventually flashbangs exploded into crowds, in an attempt to disperse them, or at least keep them moving. It goes on late into the night, and it's one of the most disturbing things I've ever lived with.

All over the internet, I see people expressing shock, sadness, anger and hatred. I suppose it's to be expected that Hillary supporters would be outraged and vocal. But what scares me is that I also see Trump's supporters lashing out with hatred for the majority of the country who actually would have elected Hillary if numbers of votes were what we counted. It's almost like there's a new permission for people to behave at their very worst, granted by a man who is proud of his own bad behavior.

What are we all supposed to do? There are good and decent people in both camps. I know that my friends who voted for Trump did not do it to cause us all harm. We've all heard all the reasoning, and it doesn't matter anymore why this man was elected. What matters is how are we going to keep him from dividing us in ways we thought we'd long ago healed? How will we keep the good that this country has? How will we preserve the rights we've worked so hard to earn? How can we still treat each other with kindness and respect, even when we don't agree?

I latched on to the growing popularity of wearing a safety pin, thinking that was a quiet little expression of solidarity with other peace-loving people. I thought it would discreetly, but clearly say, No, I did not vote for this. I wore a pin for a couple of days, and I felt like I was making more than the usual connection with people I passed on the street. Young women of various ethnicities, all with darker skin than mine, were the most likely to make eye contact and smile. Did they feel safer with me out there, wearing my little safety pin? Maybe. Or maybe I imagined it.

Then I came across an article criticizing the safety pin movement as just a way for white people to make themselves feel better without really doing anything. Crap. That's sort of what I was doing. I don't want to demonstrate, march, or protest. I don't want to be confused for one of the crazy window breakers. I don't want to find myself in a cloud of tear gas. And I really really don't want to be hurt or arrested. 

The day I took my pin off, I was out with Rick, and a woman looked at us and launched into a hissing tirade - something like, Oh my God... oh my God... so much hatred... It hit me almost physically. Why in the world would someone make such an enormous assumption about a small, even meek, symbol of peace? I was crushed. I thought about it all afternoon, and while Rick tried to assure me that the woman was just a crazy person, I was seriously questioning the value of my safety pin wearing. If it could be misunderstood so hugely, how was it helping anything?

Later, on the way home, we passed a leftover Halloween prop that a local pizza place had outside their door. It had creeped me out for weeks, and it was still there, too long after Halloween to be even remotely amusing anymore. It was a life size Arnold-As-Terminator statue, with half of his face dripping off, wearing a chef's apron with "You'll Be Back" written on the front in blood red, and holding a pizza peel and a very large, very real looking shotgun. It wasn't witty. It was offensive. I walked as far around it as I could, and crossed the street, back to the spot where the woman had been offended by my safety pin earlier... 

Oh man... what a day...

And that's when I realized what had probably really happened. The Terminator across the street was in direct line with where the woman had been looking at "us" earlier. More likely, she had looked right past us, and was as offended by the lifelike killer on the corner as I was. I can't be sure why, but that big creepy Arnold disappeared later that day, and hasn't been back since. My guess is the angry woman went right over there and set them straight, while I walked invisibly by with a safety pin on my sweater. I took the pin off and set it on my bathroom counter.

We have to be so careful right now, not only with what we say and do, but in what we assume. We don't know what each other is thinking. I could have just walked over to the woman whom I thought was outraged with me and asked her what was wrong. Even if she was upset by something about me, I'll bet we could have talked about it. I also could have gone into the pizza place days before all this happened and gently suggested that their Halloween joke had turned the corner to bad taste. I can do more. We all can. But I'm really not at all sure what that is just yet.

My safety pin remains on the bathroom counter. It's cold and rainy outside today, and there's nothing I need to go out for, so I'm staying home. After writing this, I'll make more tea and knit. I have wishes to fill, soft comforting things to make for people who have asked for them. Maybe I'm not really lost after all. I'm right here. Doing what I know how to do. I have to believe that's helpful in some way. 

As for the safety pin, well I'm not sure. It might be better to actually speak with other humans. I have long had the habit of keeping a little smile on my face when I'm out in public. Very tiny. It's more intentionally from my eyes than from my lips. More often than not, when I catch someone's eye, they'll smile back, and that, in turn, can change their whole day. 

What might happen if we timid ones put ourselves out there as a one-person peace march whenever we go out? I think it's worth a try.

Things for me to remember:
Talk to people.
I can't get lost because I'm always in here (hand held over heart).
Making beautiful things puts love into the world.
I can always do better.
My smile is my safety pin.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Color of a Siamese Cat

I like to come up with my own names for things like yarn colors. Somehow, naming the color is like a finishing touch I can give to a handmade piece. It makes it more personal, and even more handmade.

My latest scarf is made in a lovely cotton-viscose yarn that the manufacturer calls "Mouse." After working with it for a bit, it occurred to me that they were way off on this one. My name for the color is "Siamese Cat," and I'm sticking with it.

The Journey Scarf continues to be one of my two favorites to knit. This one, just finished, blocked, and photographed, is available on my website today, but I don't think it will be there for long. As with all the others, if it's not sold in a couple of days, it becomes mine. So far, all of them have found homes though, which is really nice.

I didn't see it coming, but I did wish for it - time to knit all I want, cook when I want, and somehow get paid. Admittedly, there's not a lot of money in hand knitting. But for me there's enormous comfort and satisfaction. In a limbo-phase in life, when I'm not quite sure what to do with myself, having this thing to do is such a lovely gift. 

I have a nice long waiting list for my scarves, and a growing stash of friendly yarns. The weather says, stay inside, make some tea, and make something pretty. And so I do just that. Life may be more uncertain than I'd like right now, but all things considered, it's a pretty sweet gig.

I wonder what color will present itself next. That deep, lovely red that I might call "Wine Tasting," the soft pink that calls out, "Cherry Blossom" to me, or maybe the gorgeous coral that reminds me of an "Amsterdam Rose." I won't know until I know.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Audible is My Gym Membership

My daughter turned me on to Audible a few weeks ago. I trust my kids to steer me to the best technology of the moment. They're always right about this stuff, and they can always help me figure out how to use it if I get stuck. (Like when I finally traded in my 6 year old flip phone on an iPhone and couldn't figure out what to do with it. Lauren simply said to me, "Mom - it's all about the home button." Such wisdom. So helpful.)

Audible is an Amazon service that provides streaming audio books. And it's easy. I haven't actually needed help with it. Lauren got me started by sending me You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero. I wasn't sure this was my kind of book, but I downloaded it, popped in my single earbud (I like to hear the world around me) and headed out the door for a walk. I walked through seven chapters. I didn't want to go home. I just wanted to keep reading an walking - at the same time.

I finished the book in three days, which absolutely never happens. I find time to "read with my eyes" at bedtime, which means I'm already tired and about to fall asleep. I read maybe two pages, the second of which I can't remember anything about the following night and have to read all over again. Reading and sleeping go hand in hand in my world. Words on paper at night are like a sleeping pill.

But reading with my ears is a whole other deal. I can read while I walk to the grocery store, and even while I'm shopping. I do pause to interact with other humans when necessary, but for the most part, I can just do my thing and ignore the bad supermarket music.

I use Audible a lot at home too. I work here, and I never turn on the TV during the day unless it's to balance the dreariness of relentlessly gray skies with the crackle of a cozy virtual fireplace.

When I write, I listen to music, usually classical, and rarely anything with words. The words on my page need to be my own, after all. But if it's a day for knitting, or cooking, or cleaning the floors, I get a lot of reading done at the same time I do all those things, thanks to a bluetooth speaker that eliminates the need for headphones. Oh, beautiful technology, and sound waves flinging themselves through the air!

I lean towards the you-can-do-it, self-helpy, inspirational genres these days, so I tend to listen to most of my books more than once. Matter of fact, I listened to You Are a Badass twice, then bought the paperback, and am giving it a third go-around, highlighting my favorite bits as I go. I've also gotten a lot out of Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes, and How to Be an Imperfectionist, by Stephen Guise.

I bought Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic in hardback the moment it came out, and found it somehow comforting and encouraging during the time I spent with my dad in his last few months. I was more than a little bit lost then, faced with knowing I would soon be losing my beloved hero of a father, and completely unable to focus on myself and what I was doing, or wanted to be doing. Months later, this same book, now on Audible, nudges me forward, back into my own life.

What can I say? It's been a rough year. I need a little cheerleading, and I've found a way to get a whole lot of it. To say that I'm grateful is so insufficient.

Maybe, at $15 a month, there are cheaper ways of listening to audio books, but when I think of it as a gym membership rolled in with continuing education and personal development, it's a damn good deal.

Don't get me wrong. I love holding a real live book in my hands, and turning pages and reading the words for myself, but I'm also enjoying a big new world of knowledge and information, thanks to my darling daughter, who once again has sent me to just the right place.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Project Hopping

Most of the time, I have one project going, and I stick with it until I'm finished. Not always though, as I proved to myself over the past week. Today I photographed and listed for sale this lovely dove gray Portlandia Shawl. I really wanted to keep it, but I know I can make another one, and I probably will. If you want this one for your very own, check my Handmade page to see if it's still available. If not, there will be something else in its place before long.

While I was working on this, I got a yarn delivery that totally distracted me. Instead of doing the fringe on the Portlandia, I spent a couple of days starting a new shawl in this amazing cotton/viscose blend. The yarn is like like a tiny knit tube rather than being twisted, and it's so soft and fun to work with, and it has shiny bits! Maybe this one will be mine...

And then, just as I was ready to go back and do the fringe on the other one, a light bulb went out in our apartment.

No big deal, right? A stupid light bulb? I called the office and our nice maintenance guy came right up with a new one. He even managed to change it without having to stand on my bed, which made me very happy. I asked if it was the same kind of bulb as the one that had been there for the last two years, and was assured that it was. But later that night, when we turned it on...

OH YUCK!!! Instead of the nice, warm, ignorable glow the original light had, our bedroom was now bathed in a ghastly "prison cell" sort of light that made everything, including our skin, look gray. This was not going to do.

I knew the apartment management couldn't help me, so I did what any creative girl would do. I got out a crochet hook.

Only a few late night stitching sessions later, we now have this elegant boho-chic chandelier. The light is much better, and it just looks so darn beautiful. I need to get more crystals for it, but otherwise, this is a total winner. And when we move, it can fold up as flat as a shawl and come with us. I like it so much, I might even want to look for a place with an ugly ceiling light so we can use it again.

So there we are. All in a week's work. I think project hopping is not just an okay thing, it's a good thing. Sure, there might be a delayed finish time, but that's not the point. Creative stuff is supposed to be fun while it's happening. By moving between a few different things, the work and the exploration stay fresh, and the finished result is joyful rather than forced and tedious.

And by the way, in case you like to peek into other people's windows to see how they live (I do), this is our apartment. Our entire apartment, except for the bathroom, which was directly behind me as I stood on the far side of the bed to take this picture. We love our 571 square foot home, but it's beginning to feel like it's time to look for a little bit more space.

I need more room for yarn...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

I Knit in Public

After writing the Knitting Meditation post, I wondered if I might grow tired of knitting and let it drift away, as sometimes happens with things that seems like the thing when they first appear. The opposite has happened, actually, and this surprises me.

I missed World Wide Knit in Public Day this year. I was in San Jose and didn't find (or have time for) a knit-in anywhere in the area. When I got back home to Portland, I visited one of my favorite yarn shops, Knit Purl, where I picked up some gorgeous organic cotton yarn (which became the scarf below, that I finished and wore on my daughter's wedding weekend).

I chatted with the woman helping me about how bummed I was to miss knitting in the park with them. As I was leaving, she handed me one of their little I Knit In Public buttons, and in that simple gesture, something in me shifted.

I stuck the button onto the handle of the big polkadot tote I use for a knitting bag (literally stuck it, eventually, with super glue, because I kept knocking it off), and started carrying the bag, and the knitting, almost everywhere I went. I'm still carrying it. Somehow, that button gave me permission to go forth and be a knitter, any time, and anywhere I want to.

I'm on a knitting rampage. I knit in restaurants and bars. I knit at the movies, while I wait for the lights to go down. I knit while I'm waiting for coffee, and given Portland's near-legendary "slow hipster service," that can be a considerable amount of time. I also knit when hanging out with friends, a glass of wine alongside for the social time. They ask me what I'm making and keep tabs on my progress. They're interested. And to my surprise, I don't feel like a weird old lady, but more like a somewhat fascinating, creatively driven person who's fortunate enough to be able to make stuff everywhere she goes.

What started out as a few minutes in the morning, when I ease into the day with some knitting meditation and tea, has settled in and become a big part of my days. Some "sit", I knit. In a lot of ways, it's the same thing.

As a result of all this knitting, I'm accumulating more knitted objects than I really need - or have room for. The result of that is I've started selling a few things. I really don't have room for a new scarf every week or two, so selling them supports my very tasteful yarn habit, and also makes some of my non-knitter friends happy.

There's a lot of stuff in this world. Stores full of things, mostly made by machines. But there's something so increasingly rare and soulful and alive about handmade objects of any kind. With knits, and other things we wear on our bodies, handmade will always feel friendlier than machine made. Every stitch carries with it something of the maker, whether it's her (or his - men knit too) general personality or mood, or actual intentions worked energetically into the fabric. I do that sometimes, and I think putting Love, Gratitude, Balance, Joy, and Compassion into the stitches, one at a time, is something that can be felt by the wearer. Crazy maybe? I'm okay with that.

I think I want to keep sort of a knitting journal here on the blog. So from the beginning, the first scarf I sold was this one, made of baby-soft organic cotton.

When I finished the pink one, made of a cotton-hemp-tencel blend, I wrapped it around my neck and said, Mine.

It's big and drapey and soft, and somehow seems to go with everything. I'm not a pink person, but this  shawl/scarf just speaks to me. It was really fun to make too, so I made another one, this time blue, and a fantastic blend of cotton and bamboo. I offered it in my little shop (I say little because so far, there's only one item in it at a time), and it was sold almost instantly.

I had a hunch the handmadeness of these things I'm making would resonate with certain people. I'm happy that it does. It makes my reach in the world broader, and lets me share some of what brings me so much comfort and joy.

I've named this the Portlandia Shawl, because I imagine draping a gigantic one around the lovely and powerful Portlandia statue that's perched on the Portland Building downtown, reaching her hand down to those who pass below. (I know, you though it was just a TV show...) I walk by her often in my rounds, and I always stop and say hello.

Next on the sticks is another Portlandia Shawl, the one shown above, next to my tea cup. It's the same cotton-bamboo yarn as the blue one, but this time a dreamy, soft dove gray. I hope I have enough yarn to make two of these, because I really want one for myself... and I really want to share one too.

A side note: In poking around for information on the statue, I discovered that her likeness is strictly copyrighted by the artist, which explains why she's not gone the way of other public art, such as the Statue of Liberty or the Eiffel Tower, turning up on everything from coffee mugs to refrigerator magnets. Portlandia is public art, paid for by public funds, but she is not allowed to become a public icon. Interesting. And I suppose I might have to change the name of the shawl design...

Anyway, if you're interested in having one of these (or maybe something else I'll be adding to the shop soon) for yourself, or to give as a gift, you might want to put your name on my mailing list, so you'll know when something new comes up. Really though, if you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, that's always where I share things first.

Gotta go now. I need to knit. Preferably in public.

Monday, October 3, 2016

One Blog Is Enough

Heads-up lovely readers! I've decided to invite my own self over from my other blog as sort of a guest blogger. I've come to a point in all this blogging where I want to pull all my fragmented parts back together in one place. It just doesn't make sense to me anymore to part myself out and act as though I have separate lives going on. One blog is enough. And I choose this one.

Positively Vegan has been an ongoing project for me for five years. It's been great, and I'm truly grateful for the experience. It also feels like a completed project. There's no reason to do the food thing over there, and the everything-else over here. I'm vegan all the time. It's a part of me, not apart from me, if that makes any sense.

It's not all-consuming either. So I don't want you to worry that I'll be spewing vegan propaganda all over you. That would be dumb. And no fun. Instead, mixed in with posts on all my other interests, projects, and adventures, there will also be recipes and restaurants and cool people and events. Not in that preachy way that I know sends people running, but in a way that more authentically represents my life and who I am in this world.

So don't hit the panic button and unsubscribe, okay? I think I know you guys well enough to know that you're open-minded, big-hearted, absolutely interesting and wonderful people. Hang around and get to know me a little better. I'm all rounded up in one place now, and I look forward to spending more time with you.

I'm glad you're here!
I'm glad I'm here too.
xoxo Kim

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Pirate

We live in downtown Portland, Oregon. It's wonderful to be able to step outside our door and walk to almost anything we need or want, to be right in it, to feel like part of the city. It's fun and frustrating, exciting and exhausting. City streets can make a person feel invisible, and yet, they're also like a big meandering stage, studded with spotlights aimed on a surprisingly constant cast of characters.

A lot of people live on the streets here, in varying degrees. We see a lot of young ones drift in and out, with dogs and guitars and sometimes weary looking girlfriends. Did they think it was worse at home with their families than it would be on the cold concrete, eating out of garbage cans? Older ones, almost always men, follow regular routines and daily circuits from bench to doorway to park to street corner. And mentally ill men and women are a regular part of our daily adventures in beautiful downtown Portland.

We know nothing about these people, any of them, but we allow ourselves to pretend that we do. We give them names, we make up stories, we wonder about them when they disappear. I imagine them to feel invisible, anonymous, but it isn't that easy. Not for them, and not for us.

There are some we only see or hear in passing. That young guy who shuffles as slowly as a 90 year old, head down, quiet, and looking to be in great pain. There's the fuck, Fuck, FUCK guy who makes his way up the street late at night, bellowing in a voice that scares me so much I don't even want to look out the window to see what he looks like. And there's the infrequent visitor to Archangel Michael's church, across the street, who stands at the bolted doors wearing a giant crucifix, shaking his head in disbelief at his denied entry, and crying, I love you Michael! Their stories? Lost? Crazy? Dangerous? Or merely... annoying?

Some we come a little bit closer to, like Blanket Man, who is often in Pettygrove Park, behind our building. He sits on a bench with a blanket over his head. He is completely still and quiet. He appears to pay no attention to the dogs, humans, bikes, skateboards, and Segway tours that whiz past him. My story on him is that the blanket is his room, his house, his place to be alone and separate from the street. I would never disturb him, but I have occasionally left food near him, so he can find it when he comes out.

An Asian woman wanders through Director Park every day at lunch time, at least in good weather, when hundreds of people come from nearby offices to enjoy their lunches and some sunshine by the fountain. She hovers at an uncomfortable closeness to people and their food. She stares at their plastic-boxed lunches until they start to squirm and look up. Then she says something. I never hear it clearly, but I assume she's asking for something to eat. They always shake their heads, she always walks away, makes the rounds, ends up at a trash can, digging for scraps and cold coffee in paper cups. I have no story for her yet. I can't make her being there make any sense to me.

There's a nice tree lined route to Riverplace that's off the main streets. We walk that way often, on our way down to sit by the water, look at boats, and have a beer or a coffee. There's are benches under the trees, and the one nearest a heating exhaust vent from the building next to it is occupied by a man we've been seeing there for over two years.

He might be in his fifties, but it's hard to tell. He's shaggy and skinny. He's kind of twitchy. He sometimes talks to someone we can't see. He sometimes looks up when we pass by and gives a nod of recognition. Sometimes he raises a hand in a subtle but friendly wave. Sometimes he ignores us completely, and we in turn, respect the fact that we're walking through his living room.

He always has food, so we stopped bringing him what he doesn't seem to need. But what does he need? I have no idea. My guess, my story, is he might be schizophrenic, and he's somehow tapped into the social services system, enough to have food, but not enough to live indoors. Of course I'm making that up. And while we've tried to name this man - something dignified like Robert or James or Howard - we can't agree on who he is. Maybe he doesn't know either.

Carl is different. I know his story. He used to spend every day on a bench in the park where I walk Heidi. Being a social girl, Heidi would tug her way over to say hello to him, and eventually Carl and I started having friendly conversations. I gave him a thermos to keep his coffee hot. He told me his name. I told him mine. I learned about his childhood in Montana, his years setting up and running carnival rides, and his unfaithful wife. He needed a tent, so I put the word out, and an online friend sent me the money to buy him one. He set it up under a freeway overpass for protection. He kept his site clean. He gave me a Bible.

Carl was gone all summer. He had told me that he likes to go to Montana in the summer months. Home, whatever that means by now. Family? He never mentioned any. I knew he was up for a subsidized apartment in the city, so I figured maybe he had moved on. The tent had gotten him through last winter, until he burned a big hole in it, trying to melt a loose thread with a match.

I saw him not long ago, sitting on his usual bench in the park. I walked right up and said hello. He was polite but guarded, and seemed not to recognize me. He's not around every day anymore, like he used to be, so I still assume that he has a place to stay now. But I really have no idea, and now I feel awkward approaching him. If I see him again, will I say hello, or will I avoid him? Maybe I've done all I can. Maybe he'd rather not get any closer. Maybe he's not as mentally stable as I thought he was. And of course, again, even though I sort of know Carl, I'm making up a story about him.

And then there's The Pirate. He's been in the neighborhood as long as we have, over two years, and I suppose probably much longer than that. When we first saw him, he was sort of terrifying to look at. He was a stocky man, maybe in his 60s, all dressed in dirty black, trench coat, boots, long dark hair and beard. His glasses had one dark lens and one open one - no glass at all. He stood hunched over an enormous mountain of stuff - things he'd found or traded maybe - all piled onto what looked like a Costco cart, buried deep below the treasures. We dubbed him The Pirate, because of his eye-patch glasses, and because of the "ship" he pushed around town, usually under cover of darkness. We never went near him. He looked too scary.

The Pirate disappeared for a long time. We didn't really think of him, but once or twice over the months we'd note that we hadn't seen him in a while. And then he came back. At first we weren't sure it was the same guy. He seemed smaller. And his ship was gone. In its place was a walker, aluminum and sturdy, just like the one my dad had, with a tray for carrying things. He had very few things now.

He had the same eye-patch glasses, and the same shaggy hair and beard, but his clothes were maybe a little bit newer and cleaner, and his ship had been downsized to a life raft. In place of his boots were sneakers, and sprouting out of the tops of his shoes were two shiny new prosthetic legs.

I see The Pirate every so often, always from a distance. He seems to keep himself at a distance from other people, and the name, The Pirate, still seems to suit him. He still looks intimidating.

This morning I took Heidi for her usual walk. None of the regular cast of characters were out there though. The weather is changing, and I guess maybe some of them move on in winter. But how? And to where? We rounded the corner going back home, and as I neared the door to the little convenience store in our building, out came The Pirate. There was no avoiding each other. We were both right there on the same sidewalk, heading straight for each other, he with his walker, and me with my little dog.

I'm not sure why, but I took a chance and looked him in the face. I even smiled. What was I thinking? Who smiles at a scary pirate? Well I do, apparently. And then... The Pirate said, Hi. In the split second I had left before I passed him, I smiled a little more for real and said good morning to him. His response was a cheerful, Good morning!, in a voice more fatherly than pirate-like, as if we had greeted each other this way every day for years.

The Pirate... who is this man? What is his story? Of course he has one. We all do, eye-patch or not, roof or not, legs or not... I might never know his story, or most of the others out there, but I did learn one big thing today.

We may not know a thing about these people who cross our paths every day, but they're still very much like those of us who pass them by without so much as a glance. We have no idea who they are, or how they came to be where they are now. And even when there's nothing obvious we can do to assist, the very least we can offer is some sign of recognition.

Hello. Good morning. A smile.
It's not that hard, and it probably pays off in bigger ways than we can ever imagine.
But that's another story...

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Glamorous World of Blogging

Blogging looks like a great way to make a living, doesn't it? You get to work when you want, where you want, wearing your jammies if you want, drinking martinis or coffee or whatever, and eating great snacks from your own kitchen. You get to take the dog out for a walk, meet friends in the middle of the day, take a vacation whenever you want to... Oh, and get paid buttloads of money for it. Right? Yeah? Really? Hmmm...

When the economy tanked and my bead business sputtered out like a 4th of July sparkler, I decided to reinvent myself as a food blogger. Positively Vegan was, and still is, my little vegan online home, while Long Way Home remains in the background as a not so secret hideout where I can talk about anything that interests me in the moment. I love PV, but there's more to life than food.

I started this blog in 2009, and Positively Vegan in 2011. I've written hundreds of posts, shared enough recipes to fill a cookbook, written an online cookbook and most recently, self published a printed sauce book. I created and self published a coloring book, and have done all the other things that tie it all together.

I work at home, when I want, usually in real clothes because that makes me feel more valid, and drinking lots of Earl Grey tea all day. I get good feedback, and those who like me are very encouraging. I'm often contacted by companies and authors, asking me to review their products and books. I've been approached by a book publisher. I get invited to cover fun events. I'm kind of well known. I'm doing the work, and I love it. And I know I'm good at it. But still, I'm nowhere near making a living at this.

I read all the stuff from the successful bloggers who want to tell the rest of the world how to do it. I read the free stuff that is. When it gets to the stuff I have to pay for, I'm done, because I already know that's how they're making their money. They're selling something. Yay! Brilliant! I've paid more than a few of them to share the secrets of the blogging universe, and not one has been at all helpful. As with most other things, I think I have to figure this shit out for myself.

Know what keeps me going most? Well two things, I guess. One is the feeling that I'm so close to getting it all worked out and making it a financial success that it would be stupid to stop now, after all this time and all this work. Yeah, maybe I should bag it and go get a real job. But know what? I'm too old and capable and entrepreneurial to work for someone else. They know it, and so do I.

As an experiment recently, I applied for a job as a cashier at the Good Will Store. I walked in and handed my resume to the manager, who took one look at it, then at me, and dismissed me instantly. He didn't say it, but I could see in his face that I was way too good for that stupid job. Maybe I just wanted to know how low I was willing to go. Thank God they wouldn't have me.

The other thing that keeps me writing is comments from my readers. I can look at stats all I want (which is very little), but knowing that a real live human reads my words and feels inspired or entertained or assisted in some way is like a lifeline connecting me to the rest of the world. I spend a lot of time alone. It's good - really good - to know someone is out there. And it doesn't happen often enough. Don't be shy please. Talk to me. I talk to myself quite enough already.

Here's my day today:

After Rick went to work, I drank tea, checked email, and poked around on Pinterest for small space decorating ideas. (We live in 571 square feet.) I washed my hair, got dried and dressed, and took Heidi out for a walk at around 11:00. She's an amazing little dog who almost never has to pee. Lucky me. After feeding Heidi (homemade dog food that I make for her every week), I revived an old pedicure with a quick soak, scrub, and trim, and dabbed-on gold glitter polish in the grown-out space between the old pink polish and my cuticle. (A lot of time saved on a home pedi, and $30 saved on a real one!)

I made a list of all the things I want to get done today. Writing for at least 30 minutes is at the top, so I made more tea, sat down to write, and an hour later, I'm still at it. (I love writing, and I still have to trick myself into getting started.) Later I'll work on a freebie project to add to the PV mailing list signup. (I see that all the cool kids offer something free in hopes of luring readers in to sign up for email updates. I've tried it both ways, freebie and no freebie, and honestly, I get about the same number of new subscribers either way. I'll try again anyway, because it's "how it's done.")

After writing this post, I'll work on my next book for a while. (I don't want to say what it is yet.) Then I'll go pick up my coat from the cleaners. Then I'll take Heidi out again, and maybe go over to Starbucks to see if the rumors of almond milk are true. Later, I'll soak and chop some kale, heat up some of the monster batch of pinto beans I made the other day, and pull it all together for a nice dinner with Rick.

I'll fold the load of whites I threw in the washer this morning. I'll look at real estate online. (We want to move.) I'll knit a little bit, while I wait for Rick to come home. I'll tell him all the things I did today, in a long and stupid list like this one, so I'll feel like I'm not a lazy waste of space. I'll have some wine, clean up the kitchen, watch a movie and knit some more.

I'll chat with my sweetie. He likes me even when I'm not making money. And behind the chitchat, my brain will be going a hundred miles an hour, trying to figure out what else I can do to make this thing work. I love my job. I want to get paid. And at the end of the day, I'll go to bed, with a new list in my head for tomorrow.

It's just too soon to give up.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Wedding Week and Mother Bear

My daughter, the Beautiful Miss Lauren many of you know, or know of through past blog posts, is getting married next weekend. Her fiancé, Jamie, is a wonderful young man who clearly loves my daughter deeply. I'm a happy mom, and so, so happy for the two of them.

I keep having this whacko dream that I'm in my underwear, wading through a crowd of wedding guests, unable to get past the endless stream of people who want to stop me, ask questions, distract me, delay me. It's ten minutes till wedding o'clock, and I just... can't... seem... to... find... my... dress...

Of course I'm not that much of a mess in real life. I know exactly where my dress is. And my shoes, even! Today is mani-pedi day, and I have all of this afternoon and evening and tomorrow to pack. I could pack our whole apartment in that amount of time, so I'm not worried about running out of time. It's just time to get to it.

The dream is not about the wedding so much as it is about the behind the scenes family stuff that's diverting my attention. My sisters and I are not really far enough along in processing the loss of our father in June to be dealing efficiently with the sale of his house. I specifically asked for enough time to get through the wedding before we put it on the market. We signed on with a realtor, who agreed to my timeline...

And then... a few days ago, smack in the middle of wedding week preparations, he brought us an off-market offer. He just happened to know somebody who just happened to have clients who just happened to be looking for a house in our neighborhood. Hmmm... really? He didn't know this was in the pipes before we agreed to give him a big fat percentage, regardless of the amount of work he actually put into finding a buyer? Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, the timing sucks and I'm really annoyed at being mentally dragged away from my main focus of the moment - my daughter.

The offer was low and shouldn't even have beed handed to us. I considered ignoring it completely, but decided to play along and sign a counter offer that's exactly what we want. I don't expect to get it this time, but I do expect to get it. And now I expect to be left the hell alone until after Labor Day Weekend. In fact, I insist on that part.

As MOTB, my most important job is to protect the magic bubble of happiness that surrounds the bride now. I feel more like a fierce Mother Bear than I ever did when my kids were little. Somehow, I feel even more protective of my adult daughter than I ever needed to when she was young. She's always been completely capable of handling her life, and she is now too.

Still, there's some ancient juju wrapped up in making the transition from daughter to wife. Still a daughter, but now a wife first. It's mostly unspoken, but it's felt. And it's important to me to do my best to send her off with open arms and a full and happy heart. Even though she'll still be geographically close by, energetically, a shift is happening.

I'm reared up and determined not to let any of the family haggling come anywhere near my girl. That means no talk of house selling, at least not in earshot of me or Lauren, all wedding weekend long. My personal happy bubble has to remain intact if I'm going to keep watch over Lauren's. Mother Bear is a little cranky right now, and willing to take a swipe at anyone who tries to divert my attention. I don't care about selling a house right now. Not today. Not for the whole damn next week. Grrr. Got it?

And now, I'm off to the business of being happy.

I'm coming out of the fog of that weird dream as I write this, and writing my own ending to it... I'm striding through the crowd, still in my underwear, elegant arm now outstretched and gently but firmly waving away all questions, and anyone who's trying to detain me. My beautiful dress waits for me behind a secret door to a quiet, pretty room, filled with flowers. I slip it on, step into my shoes, fluff my hair, glance at my perfect manicure, touch up my lipstick, and smiling, I drift out to take my place in the front row. I turn to watch my daughter walking down the aisle, and yes, there it is, she's smiling too, and seems to be floating, as if in a bubble, just an inch or so off the ground.

This is where my focus is. This is where I'm staying.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Time for a Revival

I miss this blog. I miss writing it, and pondering things that seem worthy of being written. I've tried to find a way to shift it over to my other blog, but it's not quite right. They're two different, too different things. So I'm bringing Long Way Home back to life, and merging it with Positively Vegan and my website, It's all me. Pick out the parts that interest you.

I posted the following, with a few edits, on PV today too, so if you follow anything I do, you have a good shot at being all up to date with me now.


Notice anything different around here? (No, not my new dress.) It was time to change things up, in order to make way for other changes that I'm not quite yet clear about. You know how that is? Making anything different has the potential to make everything different. And I'm ready for some differentness.

The old PV logo was fine and lovely, but it was never what I really wanted. I just kept it because I had it, and because a friend designed it for me, but those are both really lame reasons. So poof! Gone are the cute vegetables and the colors I never got comfortable with. If you loved it, well, sorry. I'll send you a picture.

Part of the shift I'm instigating here is a merging of my blogs and my website. I have one site now, which offers links to all the stuff I do. I do a lot and the fragmentation was making me feel all energetically scattered and queasy.

If I can figure out a way of merging this blog in with PV I'll do it.  For now, it feels like they still need to each be their own thing. Go ahead and subscribe to both. There might be some cross-blogging now and then, but mostly, PV is food related, while LWH is more personal. Having said that, I might even post the very same thing on both of them when it applies.

Like this.
It's going on both, with only minor changes.

You know, it's really like one blog in two different rooms. It's all me and my stuff. Hang out in which ever room you feel the most comfortable, or in both, if you like. I'd like that.

So here are the links. If you get lost or confused, and you remember my name, just go to It's the hub, with links to everything else, including blogs, books, beads, and handmade finery from my very own fingers.

See you out there. Somewhere.
Here's to changes!