Monday, March 28, 2011

good nostalgia vs. bad nostalgia

last weekend, my 10-year-old was invited to a birthday party at our local roller rink, the Roller Garden.  having only roller skated once, she was not particularly enthused at the prospect of spending much of the afternoon on her butt, but as a young socialite, she knew that every one was counting on her to attend and transform an otherwise dull birthday into, well, a PARTY.  that DNA must be from her father.  my idea of a party is a G hook, a ball of worsted yarn, and a coupla homemade cosmopolitans.

after we navigated the tiny parking lot, we spoke with the nice lady behind the glass who handed my kid a glow stick and let us in through the heavy locked door.  i was engulfed in dim twinkly colored light, the smell of shoe sanitizer and polyurethane, and a loud but subtle roar of wind as skaters whizzed by me.  orange formica tables, brown plastic chairs gently curved to fit any bruised and tender posterior, indoor/outdoor carpet perfect for walking on with wheeled feet, the pounding beat of music that can't be danced to; a warm tingle washed over me.  i was a fifth grader again.

not many people know this, but i was quite the avid roller skater as a pre-teen.  it isn't that i keep it a secret, it's just that within the normal course of 44 year old conversation, the words "roller" and "skate" rarely arise and the two words together?  never.  at the time, my two best friends and i went almost every Saturday and, while the main goal was watching boys, we actually enjoyed the skating and got pretty good at it.  i remember the rink "guards" who were high school boys from another school who had whistles, lots of hair, and could even skate backwards!  i think the one i had a crush on was named "Tim."  i wonder if "Tim" knows he established a precedent for all the men i have ever loved….

so, the trip to the roller rink got me thinking about nostalgia and how it spans two worlds – one's personal memories and the collective past of our culture.  it is everywhere, including in crochet, which is often incorrectly viewed as an old lady's sport.  furniture, clothing, appliances, movie theatres, toys, cars, whatever, there is a "retro" version which usually costs twice as much as a modern version and twenty times what it would have cost when it was new.  i am just as sucked in by "retro" as the next consumer and, if i could afford it, everything i own would be from some other era.  why is this?  is it because our own presents are so complicated and difficult we want something else?  was our past reality so good that we want it back?  do we have romantic ideas of what we imagine must have been "the good old days" and seek to experience the ones we weren't there for?  whatever the reason, nostalgia is just like everything else – too much of a good thing is not good at ALL.

to illustrate my point, and help you achieve the optimum walk down memory lane, i have compiled a quick sample list of "good" nostalgia versus "bad" nostalgia.  it is my goal to help you find your own personal warm tingle zone and help you avoid the searing pain of bad nostalgia choices.

  1. good song nostalgia – Train In Vain, by the Clash; bad song nostalgia – Ice Ice Baby (or anything else) by Vanilla Ice
  2. good car nostalgia – the New Beetle; bad car nostalgia – the PT Cruiser
  3. good footwear nostalgia – Chuck Talyor sneakers and Vulcans; bad footwear nostalgia – Reebok "Pump" and Moon Boots (at the risk of backlash – Uggs are a close second)
  4. good heartthrob nostalgia – Andy Gibb; bad heartthrob nostalgia – Rex Smith
  5. good drinking nostalgia – Boone's Farm Tickle Pink; bad drinking nostalgia – what you did immediately after drinking Boone's Farm Tickle Pink
  6. good fashion nostalgia – leg warmers; bad fashion nostalgia – leg warmers
  7. good teevee nostalgia – the Monkees; bad teevee nostalgia – the A Team
  8. good hair nostalgia – your feathered bangs; bad hair nostalgia – your mullet
  9. good photo op nostalgia – your babies frolicking with the garden hose in the backyard; bad photo op nostalgia – your ex and you on your first camping trip, young and smiling
  10. bad nostalgia practice – looking beyond the nostalgic moment; good nostalgic practice – taking the nostalgic moment for what it was, not what it could have, or should have become

Monday, March 21, 2011

a fantasy by any other name....

i used to work in politics.  i say "used to" because i and many of my co-workers were laid off after the last elections.  that was easy to see coming.  i am no longer needed in politics, apparently, and, while i am often described as stubborn, i have never been described as stupid or clingy.  time to move on.

actually, the timing could not have been more perfect.  for the past year or so, i have engaged in what i call an "employment fantasy," wherein i don't have one repetitive job, but three or four careers that are vastly different from each other.  i dream of flying between my role as a crochet artist and designer (there is no way in hell that would be left out, of course), a bike messenger (or something that is equally physical), a writer (of provocative blogs?), a contract policy analyst (god help me), and/or one of those sweet gals who hand out samples at the grocery store (everybody loves a woman who dishes out food and charm in equal helpings!).  thanks to politics, i realize that i am now well on my way to living my "employment fantasy."

one could examine the situation and say that i am merely piecing together scraps to eek out a living.  well…..yes….. but that is not the right attitude in 2011!  i didn't realize that my perspective was so '90s until i took an employment workshop, taught by a lovely blonde lady who made her students feel special by referring to each and every one as "friend."  in addition to her classes, this lovely lady makes and sells jewelry, is a "Career Coach," and a "Chief Connection Officer."  for some reason, i suspect those are only a fraction of her titles. 

in true character, i sat in the class skeptically shaking my head.  such a waste of my time!  a whole day to learn how to make a LinkedIn profile?  when i could be at home looking for my next mind numbing indentured servitude, so as to continue this unavoidable and empty black march toward a life of corporate feudalism and/or the nondescript martyrdom of public service!?  then i heard the choir of angels sing and the clouds parted before me.  she used a term that grabbed my short attention span and latched on to my psyche.  it was the only part of her conversation that still echoes there today.  the rest was the garbled gibberish one hears in a dream.  the term she used, to describe her own life and my employment fantasy was "portfolio life."

ahhhhhhh.  the phrase alone is musical and cosmopolitan!  that is me all over, baby – musical and cosmopolitan!  i began to use the phrase in conversation.  the first time i used it, i felt uncomfortable.  i reassured myself that it was because the word was new to me and i just hadn't deeply breathed in the concept.  the next time it didn't feel any better.  there was something about my delivery that needed work; that is why my friend replied, "Wha??"  i practiced the phrase in the mirror, wrote it on paper, and spoke it over the phone to no avail.  it felt, looked, and sounded freaskish when i said it.  that wasn't the case with the lovely blonde "friend" from the LinkedIn class.  no, it just wasn't working for a girl like me.

many hours of pondering what it REALLY means to have a "portfolio life" did not solve my dilemma.  yes, i am on my way to several careers, and i will utilize my collection of useful, unexpected, and clever tools as i navigate through the work force.  i DO lead that kind of life.  i WANT that kind of life.  i DESERVE that kind of life.  but to make that life work for me, i needed to create my own phrase.  i dug deep down into what it means to be me.  analyzed my blood lines, my family history, my own past life experiences, and looked around at the home i have created for myself.  the phrase i chose would have to be descriptive and correct.  it would need to encompass the useful, unexpected, and clever employment tools i have collected over the years, and would need to paint a picture of how those tools are arranged in my life.  any one who hears this phrase would have to know that it was created only for lisa.  finally, the answer.  proudly, i can say that i know myself.  with the strength of a thousand generations i stand assured.  from the highest rooftop i now shout with confidence, courage, and fortitude, "Friends, I don't lead a 'portfolio life,' I lead a 'junk drawer life!'"

Monday, March 14, 2011

the shape and size of our legacy

like a lot of kids, I remember dreaming about my legacy.  i wasn't familiar with the concept as a kid, of course, but as a youngster i knew i was destined for something great.  i would change our society for the better.  i would develop a vaccine, write the Great American Novel, or invent the flying car.  while i can't be certain, i think many kids have similar self predictions.  youth is all about potential and when you are a kid, you know it.  we are taught at a young age that "anything is possible" and i know it is.  but is it probable?  and if it is not, do we even want to know?  we all leave some sort of legacy, positive or not, and each legacy, regardless of size and structure, melts into the shape of things on a bigger scale.  the most difficult task is finding our legacy and embracing it.  i found my legacy at Tuesday Morning in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Tuesday Morning is one of those places that are in a strip mall, have a franchise name, contain a very odd assortment of inventory, and are usually quite sloppy inside.  for some reason, this combination of attributes is strategically designed to give the average shopper the impression that the prices in this local discount store are "rock bottom," " a great deal," and "can't be beat."  upon closer examination of the price tags (which, btw, always show the "retail" and "our price"), any one who has been to Target or WalMart can see that the prices really aren't any better than anywhere else.  location, name, size, contents, and sloth, however, is gripping and i am not the first to sift through the piles of wierd colored washcloths, unsightly glass vases, and very old prepackaged shortbread cookies trying to find the gold that MUST be hidden in this store.

my legacy sat quietly on the shelf where the clearance books were haphazardly piled.  not neatly and vertically stacked, as in a library or bookstore, but mish mashed together with no rhyme or reason.  it was a book titled "Embellished Crochet" and in the book is one of my published crochet patterns from a few years ago.  another person might hear this story and cringe.  after all, "discount store," "clearance shelf," and "piled"  are not the makings of the Great American Novel.  truthfully, it isn't even a pattern i like and i find it a little annoying that they spelled my name wrong (it ends in a 'z'...a 'Z!').  there are all sorts of directions i could go here, you realize.  in order to preserve my mental health, however, this is where the embracing steps in.

when i told him that i had a pattern in that book, the sweet man i was with grabbed it, turned to page with my work, and said, "that's so cool!" it didn't matter that the book was on the clearance shelf at a discount store or that my name was spelled wrong.  it made me rethink the concept of legacy, which i have been searching for in recent days.  so, yeah.  it is all a matter of appreciating the variety of shape and size.  occasionally, some one on posts their finished product based on my designs and i can embrace that legacy.  no flying car, ok.  no vaccine, accepted.  not QUITE the Great American Novel, but close!  as long as it is in a few closets of strangers and once in a while sees the light of day, it is ok to find my legacy on the clearance shelf at Tuesday Morning.

Monday, March 7, 2011

love and cat food

i am a crocheter who is fortunate enough to live with a cat.  mine is named Trixie.  crocheters and cats share a common affinity, which brings us even closer together - we both adore yarn. 

i'm not sure how it happened, as when my last pooch died, i swore that i would never own another pet (he was number 4).  then there is this foggy memory of a mouse in the garage, hypnotic eyes staring at me from behind a humane society cage, and cans of cat food sudenly appearing in my cupboard.  why would i do this?  it must have been love, for only love would allow me to make myself this vulnerable after the pain of losing 4 others.  i am a mom, so endure unconditional love.  i have had my share of mature adult relationships, so understand the power of passionate love.  i cannot imagine ever putting down my crochet hook, so appreciate the love of self creativity.  what is love?  after 44 years, i have finally figured it out - love is a can of cat food.

let's examine the properties of a can of cat food and the justification for our parallel:

1.  it's hard on the outside, but once you break in, it is gooey, sloppy, and rich
2.  this hard outer shell is often decorated with pretty and enticing colors, making you wonder what is inside
3.  once you do get inside, the contents are complex in composition and easy to scoop out with a spoon; in fact, it can barely be contained and changes every time you stir
4.  it stinks
5.  your supply may get low, but god help you if you ever run out!
6.  you can never tap into it alone, you will always need a can opener
7.  while you yourself will never consume what is inside (unless you are really desperate), you are eager to share it with another so that other will leave your damn yarn alone and let you crochet!
8.  once you open it, there is no going back
9.  it comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, colors and contents, and you never know what to expect
10. when your cat, purring wildly, wakes you up at 6 a.m. by muzzling your face, you can make yourself feel better by telling yourself it is "love" that makes her do that to you, rather than "cat food"

what to do with this new discovery?  write a self help book?  get a grant to study the theory?  give away cans of cat food on the corner?  share cat food with our friends in the middle east?  the possibilities are endless.  for now, however, i will just stick with a small change in my methods of self expression:  "i cat food you!"