Again with the Country Home?

I know. I already posted my sadness at the demise of two of my favorite magazines practically back-to-back: Cottage Living and Country Home. But my last issue (the last issue) of Country Home just arrived and it made me even sadder.

country-home-april-20091It was thin as I fished it out of the mailbox, and I thought, “Well, they must not have been able to afford much.” But on the contrary, it’s one of the best issues I’ve ever seen — every story interesting and well photographed. Thin because it wasn’t full of ads — just story after story. It was great, and it’s a bummer not to have it to look forward to every month.

 A big paper wrapper over the cover announced my subscription would be filled by…Family Circle? Nothing against Family Circle but it’s not quite the same. My Cottage Living subscription, at least, is being filled by Southern Living, which is another wonderful magazine, so I’m OK with that, even though the garden stuff isn’t much help up here in Zone 5.

I was fortunate to be able to pick up the 3 2005 issues of Cottage Living I was missing on eBay — all 3 in a lot of 5. Plus I managed to resell the 2 I didn’t need. So now I have a nice collection of inspiration to pull out on a rainy day or a daydreamy day or a creative-wannabe day.

Along those lines, Mike and I saw a very basic sewing machine at Big Lots last Friday (reconditioned), and when we got a 20 percent off coupon at check-out good for yesterday only, I knew I would buy it. (I did a quick search of online reviews for that model, and many people said, “I was looking for a basic, first machine for my 8-year-old…” so I knew it would work for me.)

9318simplicityI took sewing in jr. high and high school, with hilarious results. I remember making a gaucho-jumpsuit contraption (picture it — not quite like this but similarly awful) that instead of fitting my size 5 or 7 teenage body fit my mother at about a size 12. Oh, and there was that yellow calico ruffled pillow from 7th grade sewing I used for quite a while in my room. That was OK.

What I’m thinking of is more along the lines of the pillow — we’ll see how it goes. Mike (encouragingly) said, “Oh good, now you’ll be able to make curtains and things…” Oh you poor misguided man. Having grown up with a mother who is an excellent seamstress, he has no idea of the skill required and that I haven’t a clue. (One look at the gaucho-jumpsuit and he’d understand.)

But still, there’s a creative, crafty soul inside me somewhere — why else would I be drawn to the things I’m drawn to? (Or else, there’s a 1950s housewife in there — I’ve always said I’d be perfectly happy in that role.) Even if the results are too embarrassing to reveal, at least I’ll have fun trying. That’s today’s plan anyway.

There is nothing in a caterpillar
that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.
                                 ~ Buckminster Fuller

Tug of war

You know the saying: The left brain doesn’t know what the right brain is doing. (yeah, yeah, hands, brains, same thing) I have a lot of that going on.

My left brain is busy focusing on a boatload of work that, of course, magically happened at the same time. There is no planning in the hack-for-hire world. There is only “We need six case studies right away and we need you to bill us for them in advance, charging us for less time than you know they will take, and we won’t pay you for 70 days. Go.”

So I’m going. Two are drafted. The third is in the works. Interview #4 happens in 30 minutes. (Interviews 5 and 6 on tap for tomorrow and Monday.)

Left brain is also all, “Hey, you need to finish that mission statement rewrite and look at that Annual Report section you’re supposed to be editing. And don’t forget you need to visit your 90-year-old mother since you haven’t been there in almost 2 weeks and yesterday she got in the car and drove herself to the store for groceries, you loser you. And you need to finish her taxes and start doing your own taxes. And when were you planning to go to the bank to deposit that check?”

Left brain is such a nag. I’d love to turn it off, but it pays the bills.

Right brain, though, is another story. That poor, hopeful, underused lobe is focused on completely unproductive drivel. And it almost never stops.

“Ooooh lookie, eBay is full of cute handmade Easter schlock. Oooooh, you NEED an immersion blender because using the other blender to make soup is too hard. Oooooh, your favorite gardening blog is recommending a cool shade plant that you can only get mail order. Oooooh, you should really practice your sun salutations before class tonight. Ooooooh, did you enter the HGTV Dream Home giveaway today? Ooooooh, how about blogging?”

It’s not that I have ADD. I have no problem focusing my A on topics that are frivolous and easy and involve spending money. The DD only comes in when it’s time to concentrate on hard, boring, stressful topics. Like now. It’s time. T-14 minutes and counting till the next interview. (Left brain is watching the clock like a hawk.)

Both of these masses of gray goo need to just. shut. up. and play nice together. If that’s not possible, is it nap time yet?

No matter where you go or what you do,
you live your entire life within the confines of your head. 
                                                          ~ Terry Josephson

The crafter in my head

For me and most women I know, nothing beats a good craft show, especially if it’s outdoors on a lovely day. Fall is the best, with the food booths pushing hot cider and apple turnovers and the craft booths luring you in with painted gourds, twiggy wreaths, and early Christmas kitsch. It’s the chance to buy something handmade (although some booths do sneak in Made in China imposters) and admire other people’s industriousness and creativity. 

Unlike the sister profiled here, my sisters and I were not born to the craft — any craft. While we each have our talents — one sister crocheted lovely little baby outfits, another sewed and embroidered adorable clothes for her girls when they were young, another did ceramics, and I dabbled in a few things like crochet, embroidery, and mosaics — we’re not ones to sit around the kitchen table with a pile of ribbon, some beads, a little Elmer’s, and a few cinnamon sticks and whip up something worthy of anything but the back side of the Christmas tree.

We are all in awe of my sister-in-law, who is so far to the artistically gifted side we can barely see her. Pottery, watercolors, sewing, reupholstering, wallpapering, jewelry, dolls, the aforementioned painted gourds — you name it and she can do it, beautifully. We all pray she gets our name in our family’s annual Christmas gift exchange and all that talent’s not wasted buying some dull man-gift for one of the brothers. Her four sisters also have the craft gene (one is a professional potter and another makes lovely jewelry “on the side”), and they are the kind to sit around the kitchen table and do projects; thankfully, often sharing the finished products with the four of us, their undeft, creatively challenged, semi-sisters.

But in my head, it’s another story. In my head, I’m talented. I whip up charming little treasures that adorn my home and make perfect gifts. I even sell them on eBay or in a cute little shop, which of course, I’ve already named and outlined a business plan for, even though I’ve never worked a day of retail in my life. I craft in a studio (not a home office) where the worksurfaces are covered not in day planners and dictionaries and reams of source materials and tablets scribbled with conference-call notes, but with fabric and ribbons and colored papers and all manner of creativity-inducing fodder.

I’ve recently caught the “primitive” bug, thanks to a visit to a little shop in Mt. Airy (aka Mayberry, TV home of Andy, Opie, Aunt Bea…) on our vacation. I guess I’d been under a rock before then, because the world of Prim and its language of grubbying-up and ornies and make-do’s and fillers and sitters and tucks was all new to me. Strange for a long-time lover of all things cottage and floral and to be so attracted to grungy simplicity, but it bodes well for when Mike and I win the lottery (miraculously without ever playing it) and build our cabin in the woods.

Until then, I’ll keep building my crafty castles in the air (using chippy old fence pickets and rusty hardware) and doing my part to bolster the flagging economy (and eBay’s slumping sales) by buying little cuties like these, lovingly made by talented women doing what I only dream about for now, but will get around to doing someday, eventually, I swear…

valhearts31  prim-val-hearts


When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked
whether he could do anything for the famed teacher,
Diogenes replied: ‘Only stand out of my light.’
Perhaps someday we shall know how to heighten creativity.
Until then, one of the best things we can do for
creative men and women is to stand out of their light.
                                                    ~ John W. Gardner


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