04 September 13

What am I all about?

I began writing online a very long time ago. July 2001, in fact. 12 years is a long time and I’ve seen a lot of things change with how people interact with personal websites (which is ultimately what this is) and how people use their personal websites.

I began writing online because I’d recently begun a new job and was coming across small facts and trivia bits every day that I found fascinating and intriguing and was emailing them to a few people. Those people got tired of getting my emails about why salmon flesh is “salmon” colored, how George Washington had syphilis, what the Tuskeegee Airmen were all about, etc., and so I started a website where I could share it so they could read it when they wanted to.

But then other people I didn’t know began to read it and I was amazed that anyone would be interested in what I was writing. And then I became amazed at how there were so many people writing stuff that was fascinating and I began looking forward to reading their next post more than I was looking forward to the next episode of Buffy (which is saying a lot). And then I got to meet some of those people and they became IRL (in real life) friends as well as online friends.

And I continued writing and connecting. And then my job got busy and I no longer took a lunch break to read blogs as often. And then I only read blogs on Google’s RSS Reader, which made it hard to read the comments or leave a comment, so I stopped doing that. Then I no longer found myself having the time to even read what was in my RSS feeds. Then I wrote a cookbook and had no desire to write anything again, ever.

And now, here I am, missing those connections that I had with people then. Missing them intensely, and honestly. And I miss having time to share my thoughts. And after reading the work of people I know in person, I realize I missing sharing what I’m thinking. I miss analyzing my day, my thoughts, my interests in a way that helped me make them more tangible and made them more important.

So I did something I’ve never done. I’ve created a list of things I want to write about. I can’t promise my writing will be any good. But I I do think that writing again will give me something I’m missing right now. That head space that helped me put my life into a different and healthier perspective. And I need a different and healthier perspective. So I’m going to write. At first a lot about the business side of this site. I’ve got a lot that I want to share about how that has changed for me, too. I want to, need to, think more in a way that isn’t just thoughts running randomly on a loop through my head. Hence the healthier and different perspective.

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16 August 13

How to be an ally

I spent a lot of time writing about feminism as I began blogging, and for several years after that. And then I stopped writing about feminism, I barely read much about feminism, I even find myself not really thinking about feminism being one of the first words I use to describe myself these days. And that is mostly because I’m not up to date on the feminist world and I’ve not had the energy or brain power to write much of anything for years.

And this week, that has made me very, very sad and disappointed with myself. Feminism gave me a framework to process a lot of the feelings and thoughts and perspectives I had but couldn’t truly understand. And for me, feminism has never just been about gender. It has always been about how class, and race, and sexual orientation, and gender identity, are entertwined and related and embedded in each other. I’m grateful and feel very lucky to have had teachers in college, when I was beginning to learn about feminism, challenge me to have a truly intersectional approach, even if I didn’t hear that word for many years.

One of the first, and one of the most enjoyable classes I took as I worked toward my minor in women’s studies, was a class on feminism and African American literature. I was one of 2 white students in the class, at a university where it was rare to have 2 students of color in any smallish class I took. It reminded me of being in high school. On the first day of class, my professor who was African American, a lesbian, and seen as being the “perfect” teacher by many of the teaching assistants I’d talked with as I tried to map out the classes I would take, asked me and the other white woman in class: “So, what the hell are y’all doing here?”

I answered first: “I’m here to learn about how feminism is portrayed in African American literature.”

My professor smirked, asked the second woman the same question (I don’t remember her answer), and then turned to the rest of the class and said, “Now, what they gave as answers represents their personal opinion. They do NOT speak for ALL white women. Keep that in mind as we discuss things. Feel free to attack, dissect, or question their opinions, but do not expect them to speak for or defend every woman who is white in America.”

This floored me. And I welled up, and I was so unable to process my thoughts, and even 20 years later this still seems so weighty that I can’t process all my thoughts about how I feel about this statement and about how safe this made me feel in class. And it worked. We had amazing conversations. I learned so much from my classmates and from my professor and from the texts that we read. I could almost feel my brain and my heart growing after every discussion.

And at the end of the class, as I got my final paper back (a paper I came across recently) I read my professor’s comments. “You have learned enough in this class to be an ally to all black women in the United States. Thank you for pushing yourself. And thank you for making me think. Keep asking questions.” (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)

And that comment made me feel so very proud. I still feel my heart swell remembering reading that for the first time. But I had no idea what she meant by being an ally. I never got the chance to ask her, and it was years later when talking with gay rights activists that I truly understood what it meant to be an ally. And I sort of shrugged in an “of course” kind of way. I mean who could consider themselves a feminist and not be an ally.

And then I remembered sitting at the National Organization for Women conference in Columbus, Ohio in 1996. I was there with a press pass to write an article for the student newspaper at The Ohio State University. I was covering the final discussions to determine what the political agenda would be for the organization. It was my first experience with something so official and formal and huge. The discussion was held in the same auditorium that had help the family of my high school graduating class. And it wasn’t packed, but the auditorium was full.

Toward the end, a woman to my left filed a motion to ask that NOW include transgender women’s issues. I don’t remember the particulars, but I remember looking at the faces of the several women seated to my left. They were nervous and anxious. The request was turned down. The tone was almost dismissive. I was shocked. And I kept thinking, “but they’re women. Why can’t we include them in this?” And as the session ended, I turned to the woman nearest me and I said “I’m sorry that didn’t go in your favor. I can’t understand why it wouldn’t. If I had a vote, I would have voted in your favor.” She shrugged and the group of women continued talking amongst themselves, obviously angry. And I felt shame in an organization that I had admired and looked up to.

And this was the first instance where I began to realize that how I felt was not typical. And I’ve seen many other instances over the years where the large organizations that I looked up to and that I supported financially and emotionally were not supporting everyone. They were cherry-picking, and in many cases their executive directors were rude and disrespectful toward non-white, non-middle-class, non-straight issues. And I’ve grown appalled and I’ve grown weary.

And I think my disheartened feelings have contributed to my withdrawal from reading about feminist issues and participating in the feminist blogosphere. There have been many times where I’ve seen something that made me angry. But I didn’t process or write about it. I saw things that people would write or say and it would anger me, but I would slough it off and shrug it away.

And this week, I want to apologize for not being a more vocal ally. Hugo Schwyzer made me uncomfortable, but I couldn’t figure out why so I just ignored him for the most part and thought that maybe by following him on Twitter I would figure out what irked me about him. But I rarely read his tweets. And I was conflicted because early proponents of the feminist blogosphere that I read were publishing his writing and speaking positively about him. And because I firmly believe that men CAN be just as feminist as women. And because I truly do believe that redemption is possible and that we must forgive people who commit wrongs but learn from them, I chalked my unease up to being uncomfortable with his past and I trusted other feminists to do the work for me.

But the problem is that I trusted white feminists to do this work for me. I don’t read many blogs these days. And many of the blogs still in my RSS stream that were written by African American women have been silent for a long time. They’ve changed urls, or pseudonames and I haven’t followed them.

I don’t think that if I had followed these people that I would have spoken out about him, and about the attacks he levied on them to the white bloggers of note who I would occasionally read. But I might have. At least in the comments. I don’t have the authority or the power to change things. But I could have let women of color know that I supported them, that they weren’t alone. I could have been a better ally. But I haven’t been a good feminist, let alone a good ally of late.

I’m disappointed in Jezebel, I’m disappointed in people I’ve respected. But now, I also have a new bevy of people to follow on Twitter and blogs to add to my reader and readings to absorb. My computer time is still limited, but I hope to make better use of it. I hope to remove this sensation of being “disconnected” from the world by expanding my horizons. I’m disappointed in people who supported him despite misgivings (just like myself) without looking to see who else he was hurting and how.

I’m grateful to all of the women of color who have spoken up, who have shared their frustrations, but who are willing to continue talking instead of shutting down. I’m hoping that a release of anger, combined with white women quietly listening and trying to understand, will push things toward change. I’m grateful to the women of color I’m lucky enough to know in person who have tolerated my ignorance and helped me to learn. I have a lot to learn, but I intend to work on that.

And I want to close by suggesting you read this comment about what the difference is between racism and white privilege. It’s making me think and chew.

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21 July 13

A new custom bag

New Custom Bag for LC

A lovely woman with the initials LC requested that I consider making a custom bag for her last Christmas. As we began to talk about what her needs were for a bag and what she liked and what she didn’t like, I became intimidated. For two reasons.

New Custom Bag for LC

1— She is incredibly hard on bags. In the 7 months between when she asked for a bag and when I delivered one to her, I think she went through 3 bags. Thankfully none of them were terribly expensive, but when you pride yourself on your construction, finding out that someone harder than bags than you wants you to make one that will last a long time is a bit scary.

New Custom Bag for LC

2— She’s a stylish woman with a very preppy meets punk meets modern fashion sensibility. Yes, I know it is hard to get all 3 of those to merge together into one cohesive style, but somehow she does it easily. It took quite a while to figure out how to merge them into one style.

New Custom Bag for LC

I think this bag is a bit more preppy meets modern and not quite as much punk rock as I had hoped, but I think this bag looks great, contains a multiple of functions, and is sturdy and reliable. For at least an average user. I’ll see how it holds up to someone who is, what software specialists might call, and “advanced” user.

New Custom Bag for LC

I have provided this bag to her. She will use it for a few more weeks. Then I will get to see the bag again and once I’ve seen how it looks after a month in use, I’ll hopefully figure out where the construction flaws are and be able to make a new bag with any issues fixed and provide that one for sale on my website. Stay tuned. If you’re interested, leave a comment and I’ll let you know when it is ready for sale.

New Custom Bag for LC

Oh, and I need a name for the bag. Any suggestions are welcome. I’m stumped with this one.

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02 May 13

Seventeen Years

That’s how long Andrew and I have been together. It’s crazy to think about how long we’ve been a part of each other’s lives. In some ways, 17 seems SO LONG. And yet, in other ways, it is hard to remember a time when he wasn’t a part of my life. It’s not that every day with Andrew has been glowlingly wonderful. Nor was everyday before Andrew awfully dark.

But I have no doubt that Andrew has challenged, inspired, and sometimes dared me to be a better, happier person. I hope I’ve done the same for him. I like myself better with him in my life. I like my life better with him in it. I’d like him even more if he could put more dishes in the dishwasher, but I recognize how lucky I am to even have a dishwasher. (Seriously, we may not have made it 17 years if we didn’t have one. There were so many small bitter arguments over dishes pre-dishwasher.)

A friend asked me a few days ago what our secret was. “How do you get to be together that long? I mean, just HOW?”

And I had no answer for her. And even after thinking about it for a couple of days, I still don’t think I have an answer. But I think it mostly boils down to my recognition that because he is part of my life, I am better for it. He’s far from perfect. He’s got faults that many people I know would leave him for without hesitation. And while I love him despite the faults, it’s mostly recognition that his faults (while annoying) don’t hinder my enjoyment of life more than his presence in my life brings me happiness. That’s an awkward sentence, but what I mean to say is that the unpleasant moments I’ve spent with him have not kept me from enjoying the vast majority of the time we’ve been together.

There have been struggles, and troubles, and tears. There have been pained silences, tight-lips, and heartbreak. But we’ve found a way to grow and change through those times and come out still happy to be with each other. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that he’s worked just as hard as I have (sometimes harder) to get to a point where the bad times can be talked about without causing more tight lips and re-breaking of hearts.

I have no advice on how you can get to be with someone for 17 years and still be happy with them, let alone still love and be in love with them. I think it is luck, honestly. There were so many times where we probably “should have” broken up. So many times where I didn’t think we’d survive a fracture. But we did. And it has been hard work, but we’ve both put forth the work. We’ve both wanted the outcome that we currently have.

But still, man, 17 years! It blows my mind. 17 years!

Next month we’ll have been married for 7 years. Even that seems like a really, really, really long time. And yet, it seems like yesterday.

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24 April 13

DIY Trunk Show: 10 Years Strong

10 years ago, Amy Carlton and I met up at Kopi Cafe and we drank pots of tea and ate some delightful cookies and we talked about how great it would be if there was an independent craft show that happened at the beginning of the holiday season where all of the crafty people we knew, and maybe some people who would be new to us, could get together and sell great handmade things to people they didn’t know. At the time, Amy was running a jewelry making business named “Stet” (she’s an editor geek) and I had just started Poise.cc. I don’t even think I’d registered the domain yet. So I guess I was just making bags and giving them away to people for silent auctions and raffles.

We were young and energetic and naive and we laughed and said “How hard could it be to run a craft show?” Oh, little did we know. Except, we were mostly right. It is easy to run a craft show. It wasn’t hard to figure out where to have it and thanks to all of our personal contacts, it wasn’t hard to find people who were interested in having a table. It wasn’t even hard dealing with the city to rent a HUGE room at Pulaski Park (although now that room seems so small). We gave them a money order, they gave us a handwritten receipt. We pulled in favors from friends and had a website designed. We answered emails. We went on WLUW and talked about the show and about handmaking items. We joked about awful it would be if no one showed up to shop.

And 2 weeks before the show, when we were doing all the last minute bits, we snapped. We were tired. At the same time, we turned to each other and said “Do you really think we need to do this again?” We didn’t answer each other, but we nodded knowingly. The night before the show we taped off the spaces on the floor (along with our ever-present and helpful guys Andrew and Jim) and then we went and slept the sleep of the dead before arising way too early and making it back to the space where we set up our own booths and then opened the doors and ushered in 32 crafters.

32! It’s a small number now. A tiny show. But it seemed so HUGE then. After everyone’s tables were display-ready and the crafters were fortifying themselves with coffee and had taking last minute show jitter pee breaks, we opened the doors and shoppers came through them. People we didn’t know came in the doors and bought things and high-fived us. College journalists interviewed us and tried to get us to say “Well, it’s not your grandma’s craft show.” (but we didn’t, or maybe we did, but we wouldn’t say it now) And we were high on endorphins. Literally high. I was dizzy with glee. And then, at the end of the show, as I was rushing people out the door so we could vacate the space on time, a complete stranger of a man came up and asked if he could give me a hug. I was shocked and confused and agreed. And he hugged me. Amy saw my fearful eyes and walked over to us slowly. When he was done hugging me, he grabbed my by both arms and said “Thank you. Thank you soo much. This was my sister’s first show and she’s had a horrible awful year and getting ready for this show brought her so much joy. I went from being afraid for her sanity a few months ago to seeing her soar with pride and confidence today. Thank you for her, but thank you from me, too. I loved seeing that side of my sister and I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for you guys and this show.” And then he ran away. (That woman he was talking about? Still selling stuff and she’s awesome!)

And we looked at each other and said “So? next year?” And we nodded while grinning from ear to ear.

And then the next year we wrote the Craftifesto. And there were 3 rooms of crafters. Almost 90 crafters in 3 rooms with several food vendors set up and people started making cute and awesome kids clothing.

And then the next year we did it again.
And then Amy started grad school and I did it mostly (and mostly half-assedly) by myself.
And then the Chicago Craft Mafia generously stepped in to help me make it better. (And I will forever be indebted and grateful to the original CCM crew for doing that. And if you have attended the show in the last 6 years, you should, too. Because if they hadn’t stepped in and carried the burden, it would have died.)
And then we got some new members who also helped.
And then we got bigger.
And then we moved to Broadway Armory.
And then I recognized that the DIY Trunk Show was a business. A business that takes at least 500 hours a year to run. And I was tired and burnt out and knew that I wasn’t up to doing it again. I just couldn’t. The thought of having to send out applications and accept fees and sign contracts and make sure tasks were completed kept me from sleeping.

And then I thought “There doesn’t have to be a next year. This doesn’t have to go on. There are other craft shows now. Maybe I should do what I wanted the second-wave feminists to do and hand over leadership to a younger group of folks.”

And that thought felt GREAT! And I timidly mentioned to a few of the mafia members who had been with me from the very beginning that I was thinking I was done. And they all agreed that it was time to move on. That the show could only be awesome if the folks organizing it were behind it 100%, and I wasn’t. We weren’t. And it would be better to have no show, than an awful show. And then I mentioned it to Rebeca Mojica and she said “Well, I am going to hire a new position soon and I wanted to find a way to make my shop more of an integral part of the community. And then we talked seriously. And we what-iffed. And we created lists and did math and looked at numbers and translated that to dollars and realized that this was the right move for both of us. I could get June back (hello backyard and glasses of iced tea). Rebeca could cement her biz as an integral part of community development.

And today she announced it officially. I’ve signed over the reins. What legal stuff exists is now in her name. I’m still helping with details as needed. I’m not walking away completely. I’m filling in gaps and providing history and working on answering really hard questions like “If you could start over, what would you have done differently?” (And I honestly can’t answer that. I keep trying, and I can’t.)

But I have no doubt that Rebeca and Blue Buddha Boutique are the right ones to run this now. Nor do I have a doubt that my stepping back was the right answer for me right now. I’m excited to see this show from the outside for once. I’m excited to see the magic that so many other people have talked about. I’m excited to look at the whole picture instead of worrying about details. It’s going to be great. I have not a doubt in the world. I feel lighter and excited. Just like I did 10 years ago when we got this crazy idea in the first place.

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26 March 13

American Craftways Alliance

So after spending a little bit of time catching up on the Southern Foodways Alliance blog I had a flash of insight.

Somebody oughta do for craft what these folks have done for food.

Heaven help me if that person is me, but seriously. What the folks at the Southern Foodways Alliance has done for small makers of specialty, regional, dying food items is amazing. Because of them, I was able to eat “Cherokee mint” as part of a dessert at Big Jones on my birthday and cry because the flavor took me back to being a kid and sitting in a field near a cow pasture reading a book and sucking the juice out of blades of “weeds” that were growing around me. And I credit SFA, because I have no doubt that Paul F. (the chef of Big Jones) has gotten to source many specialty ingredients with his contacts at the organization.

Seriously, just read their Mission and Values and tell me that this wouldn’t carry over equally well to crafters as it does to food makers, tenders, growers, nurturers, and eaters? I mean, the fact that I’m considering getting a membership in the organization just because I love that they specifically call out fighting injustice in the food world makes me happy.

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21 March 13

Fired for speaking out

So, I wasn’t sure I would ever read, let alone link to something on Jezebel, ever again. But then I read this story(and I can’t believe I’m linking to them) on a woman who was fired for complaining publicly about sexism at a tech conference. Sexist comments that were made while a speaker was discussing how important it is to make women feel welcome in tech, btw.

And now I feel like I have to comment. From the perspective of a manager, and from the perspective of a business owner (even without employees), but if I’m paying someone to attend a conference on my company’s behalf, and if my company is sponsoring an event, AND I find out that my employees were making sexist jokes at the event with my name attached to their body, you can bet I would dole out punishment. If they were making these jokes at a bar, after hours, without their badge on, I’d probably have a discussion and make sure my expectations were clear. But if they’re sitting in the audience within earshot of anyone who is attuned to the issues of sexism in the tech biz making sexist jokes and not caring about who is connecting MY business to their comments, I think I would fire them. At the very least, there would be severe punishment. But if after a discussion and they didn’t understand why their actions were wrong, I would have no qualms about getting rid of them. Especially in this economy where it isn’t hard to find someone else who can fill their shoes. So, yes, I do think these dudes deserved to be fired.

I would also say, that if she were working for me, I would prefer that she handle this situation privately. I don’t mean confront these guys (that isn’t her responsibility), but a DM to the conference organizers would have been better than a public calling out. That said, I think firing her was a bad move on SendGrid’s part. Now their name is brought into the story. Which is probably not what they expected. OR it is what they were hoping for and now they’re reveling in the publicity and the attention of all the dudes who are happy that she’s gotten fired. Either way, I would not work with their company. That said, Adria will be answering questions about this in every interview she gets for the next several years. But it shows how calling out sexism gets you punished in our society. And that’s the bigger problem here, eh?

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20 February 13

Japanese 12-in-2, 6 years later

UPDATE Blue Buddha is generously giving away one free kit to make a Flowers Bracelet. To register to win, just leave a comment on this post and the winner will be notified. This is a great way for people who don’t live in Chicago and can’t participate in the free class offered in-house by BBB to receive something to inspire learning and creativity. Thanks, Blue Buddha Boutique.

Japanese Lace Bracelet 12-in-2

Six years ago, my friend Alison went on a massive cross-country road-trip and stopped in Chicago. Because she’s one of the most creative folks I know, and because I thought she’d find it interesting, I signed us up for a chain maille class at a shop in Evanston with Rebeca Mojica of Blue Buddha Boutique.

At the time, BBB was a company of 1. Rebeca sold supplies, but mostly to the people who attended her classes. And she didn’t have her own studio so she travelled to bead shows around the area to use their classroom space. There were only 5 students at the class I attended. And we sat around a very tiny table tucked in the corner of a basement. But Rebeca made the most of the situation and almost every single one of her students left that day with a finished bracelet.

Japanese Lace Bracelet 12-in-2

I was one of the ones who didn’t leave with a finished bracelet. I knew I was about 20 minutes away from finishing my bracelet, but the time in our classroom was up and I had to take my almost-finished project home with me. I’m quite a bit embarrassed to say that I left the project sitting on the top of a stand beside my sewing table where I knew that if I had to see it on a regular basis, I would finish it. After all, it really was going to take less than half an hour to finish, so why would I put that off for long?

But, alas, my procrastination skills are wickedly unstoppable. And so, despite my best of intentions, the project say unfinished and quite literally in my way every time I needed to get out a new pack of sewing needles or a new blade for my rolling cutter, or a variety of other items that I use quite frequently. I would think to myself “One of these days, I’m just going to finish this.” right before I would put it back in place, in my way.

When I found out that Blue Buddha Boutique (which has since grown to having a soon-to-open retail space and a cast of almost 2 dozen employees) was doing a blog bomb, I thought this was the final reason to quit procrastinating and actually finish this bracelet. I’m wearing it now, as I type this. And I’m thrilled with it. And it took me exactly 22 minutes to finish. Which isn’t bad, considering that I had to read the steps to figure out how to do the clasp (which I did slightly different to make it fit snugly). But I’m thrilled. I now have an empty spot sitting on top of my cabinet. I may never take this bracelet off to remind myself that procrastination just keeps me from having nice things.

Japanese Lace Bracelet 12-in-2

And to encourage learning and making new things, I can’t suggest highly enough that you enter this giveaway at Blue Buddha Boutique. I’m participating in a small blog-bomb to encourage people who may not otherwise know about the great classes they will be hosting in their new retail space on Granville right near the Red Line very, very soon. Even though I procrastinated for years, I thoroughly enjoyed taking the class and I wish I’d finished my project sooner. And I’ve had several ideas for small bags that incorporate chaine maille details kicking around in my head and plan on creating some of them very soon since I’ll be able to go into her new shop in person and pick out the ring sizes I want to use, try it out, and then buy what I need before I head home. Buying chain maille supplies online has just been very intimidating. And if you’re fortunate enough to be in Chicago and are interested in a class, you’ll do great to sign up for one of Blue Buddha Boutique’s classes.

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