Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Attempts at "Being Professional"

This past weekend, I shanghaied my beautiful friend Laura Beth into modeling my scarf collection. If you want to take a look yourself, the scarves are available online at my Etsy Patina & Purl.

Now keep in mind, we're not professionals here. I mean, I guess you could say I'm a professional knitter, perhaps...if such a term or concept even exists. But as far as photography and modeling-- we are somewhat hopeless cases. These photos were gleaned from a hefty reel of giggling mess-ups and goofy smiles. Even one spectacular grumpy cat grimace. Taking photos of someone--even a beautiful friend you're completely comfortable with--is odd. It's just them... standing there... looking at you.... You end up looking at each other with raised eyebrows and bitten lip, thinking "um okay now what? Uh, smile?"

And then, there was the bizarre moment when I noticed Laura Beth's gaze rest on something behind me. I turn around to see the neighbor standing there, staring at us with a completely bemused expression. "Hi," we both blurted. I could see it all over his face--he thought we were two silly women, posing and grinning like peacocks for a Facebook profile picture. (No, I will not say "pic.") Ack! Determined to waylay that impression before it fully formed, I motioned to the bag of scarves on the ground at my feet. I felt the need to explain that this wasn't just silliness; this was an actual amateur photo shoot...an attempt at professionalism, here. For a shop, a legit shop, a real business, right?

 "I make scarves," I said. Only then to realize... well that statement makes no sense to a total stranger. Hi there I make scarves. Right. Need any other useless bits of info about me?

Needless to say, in the end, we figured out our photo-taking venture. However, my respect for bloggers who regularly post fashion photographs or self-portraits raised exponentially. It takes talent to frame and capture good photos; but also there's a skill to making the subject feel comfortable and happy--not like they're on display. Having just recently gotten married and gone through the whirlwind of wedding photos, I know how awkward it can be to stand there and pose in fifty different stances while the photographer scrambles around you like a blinking, flashing beetle, capturing this angle, that angle, this smile, that glance.

So, here's a big hearty helping of thank you  to Laura Beth and her patience with my fumbling photographic efforts. And also, perhaps a sorry to the neighbor for undoubtedly confusing him.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Currently 2.19

Loving: Lately, my cuteness-radar beeps for vintage pyrex. My grandmother always cooked in pyrex dishes that displayed the olive-green daisy pattern, similar to these. I guess my love for the collections began then, knobby-kneed and squirmy in my little tennis shoes and pony tail, sitting on her kitchen stools. Honestly, you have to admit though, the bright colors and florals are a far sight better than the clear-glass and red measurements of the Pyrex you find at your local housewares store. I'd rather have my kitchen cabinets filled with a rainbow of colors than cold, stark measurement symbols. Although our condo kitchen doesn't have enough space to start a real collection now, I can't help but itch to pick up any pyrex I find on Etsy or at our antique shops. Here are a few pretty, brightful pieces I've been eyeballing: blueorangeyellowred.

Watching: Maybe its Kevin Bacon... maybe its the promotional hype... maybe its just the fact that we're suckers for a good cop show. But Mark and I have gladly hoped onto The Following bandwagon. I have never watched a more suspenseful show. Watching the Following feels like every Monday night, you have a really good movie to watch. The acting is great; the individual episode plots are full of twists and unexpected turns-- there's no repeated pattern, like with so many other shows. You never know what's coming next. And, furthermore, as a English major and Poe fan... I can't help but love the continuous Poe references. Although, my husband may get tired of me blurting out the quotation origins and clapping my hands in glee when I get it right. Seriously though.. if you haven't watched this show... tune in, it's worth it.

Reading: Icy Sparks by Gwyn Hyman Rubio. I highly, highly, highly recommend this book. It's absolutely fascinating. Rubio records the experience of little Icy Sparks, a 10 year old girl from Appalachian Kentucky, as she attempts to understand the "pops and fits" she has begun having. You follow her simultaneously hilarious and tearful journey as she's ostracized from the other children at her school and sent to a children's asylum for "inspection." Dealing with concepts and issues far greater than any ten-year-old should have to face, Icy struggles with appearance and reality, truth and lies, keeping secrets, and forming your identity. This is turning into one of those books that I hate to put down but I know, the more pages I turn, the closer the end will get--and I'll be left feeling lonely and missing the characters.

Anticipating: Starting graduate school. Today, I was accepted into a master's program here in Maryland to receive my secondary education degree. I'm slated to begin classes in August. I have to admit, I'm kinda pumped to think about taking classes toward this long-time goal of becoming an English teacher. Maybe this makes me a nerd... but I love learning new things and tackling the challenges of college course-loads. Maybe that's why I want to be a teacher so badly--so I can learn everyday. Lame, perhaps, but true.

What's been going on lately in your life? If you have your own "currently" blog post, post it in the comments, I'd love to read it. And I always love discovering other people's blogs--whether large or small like mine.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

8 Reasons to Smile

Wolf Rock trail at Catoctin Mtn. 

Can you believe its already the eighth week of the year? How are we already through two months (well, almost)? Weren't we just celebrating the new year, hallooing and hollering and banging pots and pans together? Making resolutions, wishlists, and plans?

My resolution to document an item/person/place/idea a week that makes me smile has fallen a bit short. So far...I've managed two weeks of it. But rather than constantly attempting to back track and play catch-up... I decided to just proceed from here. At some point, you just have to concede a mild defeat and press onward. 

And understand... it's not that that I couldn't find anything to smile about for six weeks. Its that I was too busy smiling to take time sharing. So here you go. Week eight.

Reason to smile #8: long walks in a quiet wood
Yesterday, Mark and I decided to take advantage of a lazy, calm Saturday. No alarms, no pressing plans. We decided to rest until the bird-chatter forced us out of bed and do whatever we felt like during the day. The day's activity turned out to be a unanimous vote: let's take a hike. It ended up being slightly more adventurous than we anticipated... to my dismay and Mark's joy I'm sure.  The recent, repeated snowfalls had washed away a portion of the trail. So the leisurely hike turned into a mountaineering trek instead--as we found ourselves marching straight up the mountainside to reach the ridgeline.

 But even though my hamstrings, glutes, and lungs were screaming in pain the whole time... I found myself grinning like a fool. There's just something utterly peaceful about being surrounded by the bare quiet trees and rustling underbrush. Sometimes as if the leaves below are whispering and muttering, telling a story to the listening trees above. And if you're quiet enough--you might catch a snippet of their tale. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

In So Many Words 2.15

A kind and rather wise person once told me that our reactions say as much about our spirit as our actions do. We may strive to offer sweet words, well-meaning advice, a helping hand-- but the real test of the pith of our character is our reactions. When someone throws you an insult, slaps your ego right across its face, or steps on your toes, how you act in that moment says as much about you as anything else. And, let's be honest, stuff is going to make us so angry we could spit. We're wonderfully fallible and imperfect human beings, and anger is a healthy, normal emotion. But the manner in which we act upon that anger may not always be so healthy or gracious.

There have been so many times that I have reacted in anger--and tossed out some words as bitter and tasteless as vinegar. I've seen the pain on other people's faces because of those words. The bad thing about words: once they're free, there's no catching them again. There's just the hoping that you can repair them with  more words--butter-soft and sweet ones. And, when sometimes that doesn't work, we often find ourselves wishing we had swallowed the gall of our anger originally.

These thoughts have just weighed heavily on my mind lately: to learn to be good and kind even when doing that seems impossible or pointless. I don't know if that means anything to you, but it does to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Power of a Purple Hat

For you, there may be no significance to purple hats. They're just an item, an accessory. A cute bauble slumped on the hat-display at your nearest department store. A purple hat perhaps may catch your eye as you stroll by the accessory section, sticking out from the morass of scarves, jangle bracelets, and fedoras.

You might even pause for a purple hat, intrigued by the shapely curve of the brim or the seamless grace of its ribbon. You model for a moment in the nearby full-length mirror the store has so conscientiously provided on a support column. Your chin tilts this way and that. You give the hat a sassy jaunt, and you ask "Am a purple hat kind of girl?" But then, you glance at the fifteen dollar price tag and crack a rueful smile.  Maybe not today. After all, it's just a hat.

But you see, for my family, purple hats have a special importance. Let me explain.

About a year ago, I was in the midst of writing what basically amounted to an undergraduate thesis. What, your bachelor's program didn't require that? Well, welcome to Piedmont College-- where they most definitely do. Somehow, mine turned into a 50 page behemoth--probably due to my quite annoying, over-achievement issue. Whatever the cause of my verbosity, I had spent two semesters up to my elbows in creative nonfiction and family genealogy research--a.k.a.... spending a lot of time getting dusty. I was either in the library, poking about the little-used but often-needed literary criticism shelves or, in the attic, roving through cardboard boxes full of family photo albums and postcards. Occasionally, when I came up for a brief breath of air and sunlight, I would swing by my advisor's office--for that weekly pep talk. "Yes your project has worth. No, you're not digging a huge hole for yourself. Yes, you're going to graduate. Yes, you're a good writer. Grow a pair." (Not really, but seriously, that's a close summation of how this casptone process unfolds.)

So that's how I found myself sitting in my professor's dim office, discussing the color purple. No, not the book. The literal color purple. Well, I guess if we're going to get technical, we were really discussing family folklore, history, and the great breach caused by the passage of time. As the years whirl onward, we lose so much of ourselves, of our past. For example:

Leaning back in his broad office chair, my professor said, "So much gets lost over time. Even in this so-called digital age. We just don't tell  family legends to our children like we used to. Or pass these things down. The little things about a person's personality ...like someone's favorite food or their favorite color...they just get lost. They're not important, supposedly." He waved a hand my way. "I bet you couldn't tell me your great-grandmothers favorite color."

"It was purple," I blurted.

Then, I stopped. Wait. I just contradicted my professor; am I allowed to do that? Did I just pull a major smart alec move? 

He cracked a grin. "Now, see. That tells me something about your family." At my puzzled frown, he said, "You are keeping people alive. You're telling your stories."

And that's what I'm trying to explain today--with all this ramble and jumble about purple hats.

We once had this little old lady in our lives. Picture her: slumping  in her padded rocking chair, one hand on the armrest, wearing a floral-print apron over her dress, her hair a delicate, wispy confection. And what I can only describe as a beatific expression on her face. She had the smile of the blessed, which she in turn broadcast like a loving blessing onto her family. I knew her for the entire first half of my life. Her passing was like the ending of an age; she had been the lodestone our entire family gravitated toward and around. Family dinners and holidays were typically centered around her; our entire, dispersed family connected at this single root-point. After her death, we divided into our respective family units and generations to celebrate our holidays. The time with Ma at the head of the table had ended.

My own mother often says of her: "Can you imagine Ma's life? She went from horse-and-buggy days to the landing on the moon. Can you imagine what she thinks of the world now-a-days? Wonder if anyone has ever seen so much change in one lifetime."

Like my professor said, the little lady we called Ma--whether she was our mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, or great-grandmother--saw time whirl right past, with all its wild fluctuations and bravado moments. Yet, she remained this quiet, steady presence. A calm solidity at the head of the table. And yet, as if to belie that solidity, her favorite color was purple. Bright, bold, vivacious purple. And she let us know it too, wearing purple dresses and little purple hats, growing blue-purple hydrangeas by her front stoop. As if she was saying for all the world, I'm alive and bright and happy no matter what time throws at me.

So, you see, that's why I'm going to such lengths to explain the power of a purple hat. Because, a little purple hat is more than just a cute accessory available at your local department store. It's a story: a whole life--bright and solid--captured in a little item, a little moment. And its mine to wear and share proudly, no matter the price tag, no matter the fashion.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Poem on 2.1

image source

I have a ghost in my mouth 
    curdling and foaming on the cracks
    of scorched lips.
Its smoky finger-tendrils slipping 
     through teeth clenched jail bars--
     an escape. 

(Words spat.
returned broken.)

No hatch here. So
     I swallow--

This ghost clouds and billows
     against my roof- mouth
     that flushes pinky white
     just like the shame
     singeing your cheeks.

Some things can't be 
     forced down.

It nail scrapes to a halt, 
shoves against my esophagus:
its finger marks,
as if the skin could stretch
like latex.

This thing refuses
to become 
a part of me.

The inner hollows
and organs swinging
are foreign to this
foreign body.

It is
is it?

No directional force
no up 
or down to tell
it where to go.

So I cough and spit
aand hack nd hark 
and cuss.
I cannot touch 
this intangible,
I cannot handle
this deadness inside me.

Abigail Hobbs
Frederick, MD

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